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JDO: Let the games begin

Posted by batate on June 29, 2004 at 11:38 AM PDT

From the very beginning, the JDO specification has been surrounded by controversy. You want drama? Consider the new startup specification against the establishment of relational database vendors and TopLink, the leading OR mapper. You want strangeness? Consider a specification for transparent persistence without any object relational mapping at all. You want a full-out bare-knuckled brawl? Consider the vocal conflicts between vendors like CocoBase and the JDO vendors; the facts and the fud surrounding byte code enhancement, and the pure transparent technologies of the lightweights against the cumbersome persistence of the establishment.

For all of the world, it looked like JDO was going to die a slow, lingering, silent death. EJB succeeded based on the sheer marketing muscle of IBM, BEA, Oracle, and to a lesser extent, Sun. Then, after a backlash against EJB, many returned to JDBC with POJO. TopLink stumbled and slipped, and it looked like persistence in general was going to take a back seat for a while.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the grave. Hibernate awakened the masses with an elegant, pragmatic implementation. And JDO began to show up again. Like the ragged peasant in Monty Python's Holy Grail, JDO just wouldn't hurry up and die; it wouldn't get on the cart (of dead plague victims). Little nimble vendors like SolarMetric effectively evolved JDO technologies, and brought it into the relational mainstream. JDO Genie built a simple and effective user interface.

So the expert group built a very strong 2.0 specification, patching the major holes in JDO. It's actually a model for how the JCP should work: they used practical, real-world experience to dramatically improve the previous version. And the intrigue started all over again. BEA, IBM and Oracle no-voted the JDO spec, and Borland abstained, but everyone else voted for it. EJB 3 announced that CMP as it existed was basically dead, and would be supported for backward compatibility. Instead, it would be replaced with a POJO persistence model. Gavin King, creator of Hibernate, joined the expert group, and it looked like EJB 3 would in fact be Hibernate. And some members of the expert group fed that false impression. The JDO community wailed. Surely, this time, they would have to get on the cart.

Then, many in the standards community got together and decided that it might be important to break persistence away from the EJB specification. As far as I know, the persistence specification is unsettled, and JDO has a tremendous opportunity to take advantage. They’ve put out an early specification. It’s been very well received. And here we are, at JavaOne. And the drama continues, but this time, within the JDO community.

First, Versant and Kodo announced that they were ending their co-marketing relationship. By itself, this would not make sense, because SolarMetric liked the increased visibility in this marketplace, and Versant liked having an increasing presence around relational databases. The move was quickly explained when Versant announced the acquisition of JDO Genie, a lesser implementation with inferior mapping capabilities, but still, a market player based on innovative user interfaces and ease of use. The message from Versant is clear. Relational databases have won. Nowhere in the JavaOne media guide could you even find the word object-oriented database in the Versant literature. They seem to be strongly targeting the relational community, and based on continually declining market for OODBMS, that’s a sound move.

For a return salvo, SolarMetric hired the independent giant, Robin Roos, effectively showing the rest of the persistence industry that SolarMetric planned to compete in Versant’s back yard. Finally, SolarMetric bolstered their application strategy by announcing a tighter integration with Spring. That effectively gives Kodo features like declarative transactions without having a full application server. So SolarMetric’s counter moves look to be aggressive.

So in the shadows of JavaOne, big things are happing all across the JDO landscape. It’s an important one to watch, because I believe that the Kodo product is the best high-end implementation of transparent persistence today. (I like Hibernate on the low end.) What happens next? Stay tuned.

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