Back from QCon

Second conference in London in less that 6 months (Grails Exchange in October). It‘s always good to be back in London (where I lived for 2 years) except for public transport (Circle Line wasn‘t working on Thursday… again). The conference is held at the Queen Elisabeth just facing the Westminster Abbey. Very nice to look at during the breaks.
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I‘ve been invited to talk at a BoF aroud JCP. Thanks to Aaron Houston, Floyd Marinescu and Patrick Curran. The conference started last Monday but I could only arrive on Thursday. I only had two days at the conference and I have to say, QCon is different from what I’m used to. The audience looked more experienced (or older if you want) and the quality of the presentations was really high. It’s not just for techies and not just for Java too. There was several tracks like Agile, Ruby, Middleware, Web…

On Thursday morning there was Kent Beck’s keynote about trends in agile development. He didn‘t talk much about the technical skills that a team should have but more about social skills. No need to have a very cleaver technical guy if he can‘t work within a team. One person can ruin productivity of the entire team. But that brings another recruitment issue. How to evaluate social skills ? This seems under estimated but as Kent said, it can be learned. For him one of the most important skill is to be able to listen.

Ari Zilka session was Clustered Architecture Patterns Delivering Scalability and Availability with Terracotta. Coming from application server clustered, Terracotta looks like a refreshing technology… but also hides some magic behinds. It hooks into a JVM to replicate object graphs across JVMs. One sentence that came often was : serialization of object is expensive, so just don‘t serialize them. Terracotta replicates live objects, doesn‘t serialise them, that‘s why it can be 10 times faster than common caching or clustering.

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REST, Reuse, and Serendipity by Steve Vinoski talked about interoperability. He started with an architectural slide showing interoperability between different systems using DB, SMTP, HTTP, MOM (expensive), ESB and EAI (same thing, just relabelled), JCA, RPC (ignores partial failure), JAX-WS (marshalling/unmarshalling)… Before talking about REST, Steve talked a bit about Unix pipes. They have a very uniform interface and standard file descriptor. Any command can take something in input (stdin), produce something (on stdout) and deals with errors (stderr). That‘s why we can combine them in any way. REST has also a uniform interface (GET, PUT, POST, DELETE) and you can pipe resources and encourage combination of orthogonal application.

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Rod Johnson interesting and controversial session was entitled The Cathedral, the Bazaar and the Commissar: The Evolution of Innovation in Enterprise Java. It was a sometimes hard view of the JCP. Being an Expert Member and having followed Java EE for many years, I have to say that I share most of what he said. His presentation was divided in three parts 1) What are the sources of innovation : disagreeing with people, experimentation, competitions… 2) History of Java EE : before J2EE (vendor locking, fragmented market), the promise of J2EE (JCP becomes dominant, it creates a market), the decline of J2EE and the rise of open source. 3) What‘s next. That‘s where Rod talked about the cathedral (one company creates it all), the Bazaar (many people in a disorder way create it) and the Commissar (a dictatorial way of doing business, i.e JCP is the USSR commissar). Now, open source is not a Bazaar anymore but can be more seen as a cathedral (JBoss, Eclipse, Spring…). The JCP doesn‘t control Java, there‘s also OASIS, OSGi, W3C, OMG, Open source…

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Neal Gafter talked about Evolving the Java Language and
what is like to extend a widely deployed language. He gave some examples of things that had to be done in Java 5, not the perfect way, but because of being backward compatible (the Collection class that was difficult to generify for example). One other thing are APIs that influenced the change of the language. Then, he talked about the future. Basically, the roadmap of Java 7 is still uncertain. Has Neal said, the Properties proposal might not be on JDK 7. And the closure topic came along. Neal said something quite funny about that “lots of companies want closure except two : Sun Microsystems and my boss (Google Inc)”. In fact, as hard it is to believe, the JSR for Java 7 hasn‘t even started yet. And as Neal pointed out, there are not enough resources at Sun to make it happen in a decent timeframe (looks like teams are busy with JavaFX).

From 7:30pm to 8:30pm was the BoF about the JCP. It was a very informal BoF, as I like them. About twenty people turn up and with Patrick Curran, Rod Johnson, Peter Pilgrim.. we talked about the JCP. Rod was less hard admitting that the JCP has opened up a lot. I gave my experience of being an expert member and others about being JSR leaders. We talked a lot about transparency, open mailing list, wikis… ideas that would bring more transparency to the JCP. I was surprised to see that the spec leader does more or less what he/she wants. There are even some JSRs that already have a public mailing list. I asked Patrick what is the percentage of individual participating at the JCP. I was expecting a figure between 10% or 20%, but no, it‘s three quarters. I‘m not the only individual involved in that then ;o)

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Last but not least, Didier Girard about GWT and Google Gears. After he presentation I really had some doubts about choosing Flex for rich client. I think Flex is a very powerful platform to develop Rich internet applications but GWT looks really promising and it is Java, not Action Script. Didier did many demonstrations and finished with a funny slide predicting the death of JSPs, ASPs. IT history is full of predictions, let‘s see if this one happens or not. GWT compiles Java code into JavaScript but in a very efficient way : one javascript file per browser (no more if IE then else if Firefox… in your code) and the code is obfuscated. On of is full demo was only 60 Kb of javascript (that you can‘t and don‘t want to read).

And I‘ve also spent part of my time meeting and talking to people : Kirk Pepperdine who will be speaking in Paris the 8th of April for the JUG, Skills Matter who is creating a branch in Paris and also deals with JUGs, former mates from BEA (they are living difficult and uncertain time at the moment after being bought by Oracle), Java Black Belt guys (who wants to come to the Paris JUG to talk about training teams), O‘Reilly books who also do some discounts for JUG members, and many more.

A shame I couldn‘t make it for the three days conference. QCon is a very good, high level conference. The one that you go back home and think : am I using the right tools ?

Categories: Java, Talks

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