Speculations for 2010, Part 2: The Multicore Challenge - Is It Still Relevant?
Ever since Mark Reinhold's announcement at DEVOXX that Java 7 will include closures, I've found myself thinking a lot about where we are headed with respect to desktop computers, how Java fits into that, how the cloud fits in, etc. It makes sense that the future will include many-core processors, which will be available even in budget-priced systems. What will we do with all those processor cores? Well, that depends on the nature of the software we'll be running on our systems.
In Mark Reinhold's Closures for Java post, which was written soon after the DEVOXX announcement, he said that it is because of the emergence of multicore processors that closures are needed in Java. Why? Because:
I was initially somewhat confused by these statements, because I thought Java had everything it needed for efficient use of multiple cores in its threading libraries. The results of our (unscientific) November poll Is Java's parallel programming support sufficient to meet 'the Multicore Challenge'? suggest that quite a lot of developers (34%) believe the same thing. 18% thought that with the addition of closures, Java will have adequate parallel programming support.
In my recent interview with Adam Bien, I asked:
Do you agree that adding closures to Java is needed to enable Java to meet "the Multicore Challenge"?
I'm not sure about that. You can run perfectly scalable code right now with plain Java. Closures could make it more convenient - but it isn't impossible to write multicore code without them.
But -- another question is: are we moving away from desktop applications anyway? Look at the purchase of Playfish by Electronic Arts:
The acquisition of Playfish falls in line with EA's desire to be more than just a developer for traditional gaming platforms, like consoles and the PC. The company said in a statement that the acquisition "strengthens its focus on the transition to digital and social gaming."
It's not "we want to diversify into social gaming"; rather, it's taken for granted that social gaming is replacing digital gaming. And where does social gaming actually take place? In the cloud, not on your multicore desktop.
So, then, is the Multicore Challenge becoming a moot point as people migrate ever greater shares of their computer-based activity into the cloud? My little HP Mini 1120NR netbook does a fine job with FaceBook, Twitter, and BlogBridge; it's great at conferences; I can even set up the java.net home page and write my blogs on it (though I prefer my larger desktop screen for that work). Sometimes I even turn off my quad-core desktop (500 Watt power supply) and use the Mini for periods of hours, to save on my electric bill (also, in the winter, to minimize the chance for the quad-core to overheat, which happens on occasion when the corn stove we use to heat this end of the house is running).
Then, too, there's the iPhone, Google's Android platform, etc. Larry Ellison even hinted at the creation of an Oracle/Sun phone at JavaOne. At minimum, Oracle/Sun would be very active in developing software for mobile devices. While I remember Ellison saying these things, I'll point you to a Wall Street Journal article for reference. Talking about mobile devices, Ellison said:
"I don't see why some of those devices shouldn't come from Sun-Oracle."
And he also said:
"I think you'll see us get very aggressive with Java and developing Java apps for things like telephones and netbooks."
So, then, might the desktop computer itself be kind of on the way out? Probably not, but if the great majority of apps people want to run actually perform their processing on remote server farms, with the local activity being simply a user interface that sends out requests and receives and displays responses, how much of a need will there be for heavy-duty multithreaded applications that run locally? And, thinking about Java, doesn't Java EE 6 provide everything we need on the server farm end?
Just some thoughts...
Happy New Year to all who observe the Gregorian calendar!
The year is coming to an end, and it