Vaadin Community Survey Confirms Java EE Used More Broadly Than Alternatives

For those unaware, Vaadin is a popular GWT based RIA Java web framework. You may also be surprised that the Vaadin community is 150,000+ strong. To better understand this community the Vaadin folks fairly recently ran a survey. One of the things the Vaadin folks wanted to know is how often Java EE is used compared to alternatives. The results of the survey certainly look encouraging for Java EE, particularly given the seemingly perpetual nay-saying around Java and Java EE in predicable corners of our ever “colorful” industry.

The results for Java EE usage are shown in the graphic below. The most number of respondents – 41% – identified themselves as Java EE users. I think this is truly remarkable for a mature open standard like Java EE with a number of non-standard product vendors aggressively positioning themselves as competitors to Java EE for many years now. The relatively sizable 27% of respondents that indicated “other” is also quite interesting. It is possible these folks simply use Vaadin as their primary server-side toolset.

It is important to note though that the sample size is significant but small – 250+. That said, the survey is very reliable in one very important way. The survey was not anonymous/online but was from known and clearly identifiable members of the Vaadin community. This certainly helps reduce but not completely eliminate possible self-selection bias in an online survey. It’s also remarkable how similar these results are to other larger surveys from reliable, neutral sources (the DZone survey results are in the graphic below). The survey illuminates some other interesting but somewhat predictable findings – I would encourage you to look at the entire survey results.

While the Java EE platform has long included JSF as it’s primary web framework, I personally know of a good number of folks that actually use Vaadin with Java EE. Indeed I’d say it is one of the best if not the best RIA web framework out there (although I must admit I am a fan of PrimeFaces as an alternative to mucking around with JavaScript). It is really nice that Vaadin has long included strong support for Java EE.

While all of this is good news, the Java EE community can ill afford to rest on it’s laurels. The community has hard work ahead of it as always to continue to serve developers of all stripes. On behalf of the Java EE Guardian community it is only correct to thank everyone that indicate their support for Java EE in such surveys. Our volunteer driven work is intended to benefit you first and foremost – it is good to see that intent does not get lost in the muddle.

Java EE Security Early Draft Review Starts Now!

The Java EE Security API just posted it’s first early draft review. Because of the now accelerated Java EE 8 schedule, the rest of the steps towards finalization of the specification is going to happen very quickly.

Java EE security is one of the most anticipated changes in Java EE 8. This is the case particularly because security is one of the last areas left to be revamped in the way most other Java EE APIs such as EJB 3 have been changed radically. As a result Java EE security is very highly dependent on things like vendor-specific GUI console wizards, vendor-specific configuration or command-line administrative tools. Pluggability, extensibility and customization is also currently challenging when the security features that already come with the application server are not sufficient. This is the main reason for the existence of third-party security frameworks in server-side Java like Shiro and Keycloak. The Java EE Security API aims to solve these important issues and promote both simplicity as well as portability, particularly on the cloud.

The best way to learn more about what is in the specification is looking at the specification draft itself. Another great way to get yourself familiarized is looking at the slide deck from key expert group member and my friend Rudy De Busscher (please click here if you can’t see the embedded deck).

While the specification is going to finalize soon, there are still plenty of reasons to get involved. Indeed this has been one of the most heavily community driven Java EE 8 specifications. Here are the many ways you can still engage (most of this comes directly from the Adopt-a-JSR page I drafted while still at Oracle):

The next step is up to you. You can be a part of the effort to simplify and improve security in server-side Java. If you have any questions I am happy to try to help – just drop me a note any time.

DZone/Java EE Guardians Survey Results: Standards and Innovation

As some of you are aware, the Java EE Guardians and DZone jointly conducted a community survey to help determine Java EE 8 features prior to JavaOne 2016. You may also be aware that we shared the results of that survey with Oracle before the details of the renewed Java EE 8 scope was announced. Now is a great time to start analyzing those results a bit more. I’ve already done a high level summary of the results. I’ve also done a deeper dive into the responses for HTTP/2 and Servlet 4Java SE 8 alignment as well as Java EE security.

Besides simply asking about Java EE 8 features, we asked a number of fundamental questions towards the end of the survey that go to the core of Java EE itself. In this entry and a subsequent few others I am going to take a closer look at some of these questions. I’ll then return back to looking at the more mundane Java EE 8 feature specific questions. It will be clear in a few weeks why this change of order is important at the moment.

The Question
One of the most important fundamental questions we asked is around the complex relationship between standards and innovation. This question and its responses deserve a particularly in-depth look.

Here is how we phrased the question:

“Innovation and standardization is a tricky balance. Standards are pervasive, heavily relied upon and often strongly backwards compatible. For these reasons standards generally only include clearly proven ideas and avoid unproven ones. One can argue EJB 2 Entity Beans were an unproven innovation that was standardized too quickly. The Java EE ecosystem can always innovate ideas that are later standardized when proven.

That being said, standardization is an engineering activity and inevitably includes some level of innovation. It may also be the case that Java EE is different in terms of an open standard as it heavily competes with non-standard technologies.

How should Java EE approach innovation?”.

The Results
The following graphic shows how the community responded. It’s not realistic to think there would be a simple answer to a pretty complex question, but there are clear patterns. The most number of respondents (43%) essentially agreed with long-standing Java EE expert group consensus. Specifically this means taking a relatively conservative, organic approach to standardization. A further 14% favored a very conservative approach to standardization, forming a significant but not overwhelming majority. About 21% respondents had essentially the opposite view, equating Java EE with non-standard products. For context, this would basically mean standardizing features in products that are rarely used even by their own users. A further 23% favored a slightly more conservative approach that is still OK with standardizing ideas that are yet unproven. For context, these are most concepts that would very likely be considered Hype-Driven Development (HDD) by most ordinary developers in the blue collar enterprise (the very readable, extremely unassuming and sensible HDD write-up tellingly includes microservices and reactive programming as prominent examples; if you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend reading the linked article).

People that put in comments for the most part supported the existing Java EE approach to standardization. Here is a representative sample:

  • “Focus on reliability and long-term planning, Java is the backbone of many enterprises”
  • “I do not believe that Java EE should introduce any wildly new concepts or approaches”
  • “Stability is way more important than college kids’ untested and unproven ideas”
  • “Considering the purpose of Java EE in the first place, only those innovations should be considered that reduce bugs, increase stability, keep backward compatibility and reduce cost”
  • “The most valuable thing about Java is that it’s backwards compatible, so innovations should be standardized very carefully. Innovations are to be provided by libraries, frameworks, etc”
  • “I firmly believe in Java EE as a robust, reliable, base stack upon which to build the rest of your tech stack. As such, I don’t really think innovation should be seen much in it’s purvey. Let third party libraries, frameworks, and vendor-specific features take charge of innovation. Meanwhile, the Java EE specs should keep making sure to standardize as much of the proven ideas as possible to allow communities to disengage from specific implementations as much as possible”
  • “I see standardization as a final step of a lengthy engineering process. Changing a standard after it gets established is always difficult and if it is frequently required, it’ll be quite counterproductive”
  • “Since standards are there to last at least for a few years, I prefer a more conservative approach”
  • “It is important for Java EE to try to limit it’s scope only to proven ideas and make them standards. For all other ideas there is always the possibility to evolve as open projects and once they prove they are good Java EE can adopt them”
  • “Our industry is full of hype, it is a decease. Java EE should be free from it”
  • “Let the industry innovate…then standardize later. Don’t discourage the use of non-standard libraries”
  • “For me, standardization is a refining activity, which means to take the best approaches and bind them together in a way that makes sense and eases developers’ work. Innovation for innovation’s sake is not worth the effort since it takes resources away from other areas that need improvement”
  • “Java EE should be conservative”
  • “Innovations may be provided by vendors, no need to standardize them”
  • “One of the selling points for Java EE is the stability and robustness. If we start to introduce the innovation-of-the-day into Java EE, then we will threaten that stability”
  • “There can be innovation on top of Java EE. Once they are proven – and if found necessary – they can be included as standards later on”
  • “I’m all for new ideas, but if they’re going to make it into Java EE, the reason needs to be that people actually need them. Not just because X is the latest buzzword”

Java EE Innovation Approach in Context
To understand the real significance of the current implicitly conservative approach to Java EE standardization, it is important to have some context.

I don’t think it surprises ordinary enterprise developers that technology vendors do not behave very responsibly when it comes to hype. Although there are a few brave souls, many do not have the correct incentives to self-regulate responsibly against hype. Even the ones that actually do have some good intentions are often slaves to their own egos, groupthink and isolation from down-to-earth blue collar enterprise development. Indeed grossly exaggerating the real world applicability (and consequent profitability) for startup(ish) ideas has become a such a habitual problem in Silicon Valley in recent years that it has long been hard to find companies that don’t do it (if you haven’t read the book “Disrupted” I highly recommend you do it soon). Quite frankly typical conference speakers, self-declared “industry analysts/thought leaders/opinion makers” and a certain class of consultants aren’t any better at any of this either.

As the Hype-Driven Development writeup author correctly points out, the ultimate safeguard against hype is ethical, responsible, business-value-focused developers that see the wasted effort, inflated costs, ongoing maintenance complexity and outright project failures that constantly chasing hype causes. Open standards, as an insulator between end-users and vendors have an important role to play as well. Indeed the many non-vendor independents in Java EE JSRs that I’ve had the honor to work alongside for years have long guarded carefully against hype. They understand well that guarding against hype and promoting long-term stability/simplicity is one of the most valuable things open standards can uniquely provide by encouraging direct early participation from real end-users as key stakeholders in Java EE expert groups. It is no coincidence that the worst standardization mistakes in Java occurred in the J2EE era when expert groups were almost exclusively vendor dominated. EJB 2 Entity Beans and an overzealous emphasis on EJB remoting/distributed objects were the key HDD ingredients of their day (indeed there are far too many stark parallels between distributed objects and microservices – it’s almost as though our industry is choosing to stubbornly forget the hard-earned lessons of the past :-)).

Often the only real way of getting things right is taking the lessons of past mistakes to heart. I think for many years now that has been true of Java EE. Most of the key changes in Java EE 5, Java EE 6 and Java EE 7 have been about standardizing ideas that have already been reasonably established. This includes standardizing JPA based on Hibernate, TopLink and JDO, standardizing CDI based on Seam, standardizing Bean Validation based on Hibernate Validator and standardizing JSF features based on RichFaces, PrimeFaces, OmniFaces, Seam Faces and DeltaSpike. The great lesson Rails had to teach Java EE is that it is OK to be a highly opinionated framework that wholeheartedly embraces the integrated platform concept and convention-over-configuration. Java EE 5 took those lessons to heart and frankly the Java EE community still enjoys the real benefits of those changes in a way few other communities do even today (and as many of us understood from the start neither Ruby nor Rails “took over the world” but instead found their own comfortable space for success; many of us in the Java EE community view Node.js in the same light today despite the tiresome hype now).

There have of course been some well-vetted organic innovations in Java EE as well. Examples include using annotations as metadata in EJB 3, declarative style service endpoints in JAX-WS, JAX-RS and WebSocket, CDI @Observer, @Stereotype, @Decorator and InjectionPoints as well as EJB 3 @Asynchronous and @Schedule. Some of us find it more than a bit ironic that many of these changes are actually quietly adopted later by frameworks that position themselves as rivals of Java EE but simultaneously claim a veritable monopoly on innovation in server-side Java…

By contrast there has been hype that the Java EE expert group has chosen to bypass, I think for the better. SOA is a fairly clear example. Even at the height of SOA hype, Java EE essentially kept SOA specific features at arm’s length, limiting it to the basic ability to publish SOAP endpoints using JAX-WS. Thankfully Java EE never over-reached into the inevitable quagmire of ESBs, enterprise integration frameworks or the WS-* family of specifications. The only small step in this misguided direction ended relatively expeditiously with the pruning of JAXR in Java EE 6.

I know my saying so will not sit well with some of my fellow Java EE expert group members, but another good example is Java EE largely bypassing OSGi hype. It was obvious from the start that the complexity of the OSGi model/runtimes coupled with the complexity/needlessness of trying to modularize most real world applications was bound for failure in the blue collar enterprise (does anyone still even remember Spring Dynamic Modules or SpringSource dm Server?). Java EE ended up making no changes to try to accommodate feverish OSGi hype of the day. What happened was far more pragmatic. With the notable (and unfortunate) exception of WebLogic, Java EE vendors modularized their runtimes instead – performing a very difficult ground-up rewrite few other non-trivial software projects would have likely survived. I think a particularly brave shining examples of this is WebSphere Liberty. IBM could have just stopped at embracing the Web Profile via WebSphere Classic. Instead they chose to simultaneously embrace the Web Profile, a total rewrite and ground-up modularity via WebSphere Liberty.

This complex and nuanced context is why some of us raised an eyebrow when we saw some of Oracle’s Java EE 9 ideas. Frankly it is the reason the question on innovation and standardization showed up in the survey at all. Some of the Java EE 9 proposals look more along the lines of the past mistakes made in the name of vendor-driven innovation/time-to-market concerns of the J2EE era than the more measured, community-driven standardization of the Java EE era. Conversely, this is also why most Java EE folks see the critical value in the MicroProfile effort and projects like WildFly Swarm that innovate with Java EE and serve as pipelines for standardization of proven concepts.

Java EE as an Enabler of Innovation
This discussion will not be complete without some understanding of the fact that Java EE does far more than simply passively standardize proven changes. Java EE actually seeks to enable innovation in more fundamental ways than most seem to know or wish to acknowledge.

There is a curious charge out there that Java EE somehow discourages innovation by insisting that developers only use standard APIs and only the platform. At best this is a grossly outdated idea that persists from the J2EE era fueled by ignorance. At worst it is a bit of deliberately designed anti-competitive propaganda.

The reality is that Java EE has long done it’s best to promote innovations through plug-ins, extensions and conservative standardization. Every expert group in virtually every Java EE JSR works hard to make sure Java EE APIs have ample extension points that both the community and vendors can use. Some obvious examples include the CDI portable extensions API, CDI interceptors, Servlet filters/listeners, JAX-RS interceptors/filters, JPA unwrap methods, the JSF component model, the WebSocket programmatic API, WebSocket encoders/decoders, Bean Validation custom constraints, JCA connectors and many more. The clearest message of the active encouragement of ecosystem innovation that builds on the platform comes from the very charter of Java EE from years past now:

“It would not be appropriate for the Java EE platform to grow without bound to include all the interesting and useful technologies desired by web and enterprise application developers. Instead, we believe it is desirable to enable more of these technologies to cleanly layer on or plug in to Java EE application servers. By adding more extensibility points and more service provider interfaces, these other technologies can plug in to platform implementations cleanly and efficiently, and be just as easy to use for developers as the facilities that are built into the platform”.

These are the capabilities and underlying philosophy that powers projects like Seam, Arquillian, DeltaSpike, PrimeFaces, OmniFaces and so many more. Indeed these capabilities power the very products that aim to position themselves as alternatives to Java EE.

The Java EE platform goes farther than simply provide extensions. It has long been the case that almost every Java EE API is also available outside the platform in a standalone fashion. This is the case despite the fact that these APIs target Java EE in their JSR charter, closely integrate with other Java EE APIs, coordinate heavily with the Java EE expert group both in terms of schedule as well as content and are often directly funded/staffed by product teams that provide commercial implementations of the Java EE platform rather than an individual API. These standalone parts of Java EE can be used basically in any way anyone can imagine. This takes substantive hard work and real investments that even the most aggressive competitors to Java EE can and do routinely take advantage of. A good friend and fellow Java EE expert group member once asked me “why do we do this to ourselves?”. The answer is that it is the right thing to do in order to promote innovation and extend the value of Java EE to the ecosystem far beyond the boundaries of just those folks that embrace Java EE as a cohesive platform. The hope of course is that some of the resulting innovation would make it’s way back to the platform. There is no other platform, standard or otherwise, that goes to such lengths to empower innovation in a very broad ecosystem. Failing to properly acknowledge these facts does serious disfavors to the very ecosystem that benefits from Java EE.

I do hope this post serves as food for thought in the complex topic of Java EE, standards and innovation. Please do stay tuned as I further look at a few more similarly fundamental topics in the survey. In addition to my write-up, I would encourage you to look at the survey results yourself and get involved in Java EE. You can certainly do so by becoming a part of the Java EE Guardians.

Java EE @ DevNexus 2017

DevNexus 2017 was held in historic Atlanta on February 22-24. For those of you not familiar with it, DevNexus is the most significant Java centric conference in the South Eastern US and now perhaps even at a national level. It was started by JBoss Java Champion Burr Sutter and organized by the Atlanta JUG (currently lead by Vincent Mayers, Gunnar Hillert, Pratik Patel, et al). I guess at this point I am somewhat of a DevNexus veteran myself. As usual DevNexus attracted a bevy of world class speakers including Ed Burns, David Blevins, Ivar Grimstad, Simon Ritter, Heather VanCura, Stephen Chin, Simon Maple, Geertjan Wielenga, Victor Orozco, Edson Yanaga and Enrique Zamudio. This was another solid year for DevNexus. Java EE had a strong showing at the conference as usual, including my own sessions.

I am very proud to say my company CapTech sponsored DevNexus for the very first time. We had a fully manned booth that saw very good traffic and we also sponsored a well attended happy hour.

I started the conference late afternoon on the first day with my talk titled “Java EE 8 and Java EE 9 – What You Need to Know!”. I discuss continued Java EE adoption, the importance of Java EE to the ecosystem, the contents of the upcoming Java EE 8 release as well as the tentative Java EE 9 plans that Oracle shared at JavaOne 2016. I also talk about the key MicroProfile initiative that aims to bring a collaborative, fast-paced, vendor-neutral approach to microservices in the Java EE ecosystem. The heart of the talk covers the key features of Java EE 8 such as HTTP/2, a complete security API overhaul, even stronger JSON support, support for HTML 5 Server-Sent Events (SSE), CDI 2, Bean Validation 2 and Java SE 8 alignment. The current slides for the talk are here (click here if you can’t see the embedded slide deck):

Later in the afternoon my former colleague Ed Burns did a deeper dive on three specific Java EE 8 APIs – Servlet 4, JAX-RS 2.1 and JSF 2.3. For those unaware, Ed is the specification lead for both Servlet 4 and JSF 2.3.

Early in the evening I delivered my talk on Cargo Tracker/Java EE + DDD titled “Applied Domain-Driven Design Blue Prints for Java EE”. This talk overviews DDD and describes how DDD maps elegantly to Java EE using code examples/demos from the Cargo Tracker Java EE Blue Prints project. Below is the slide deck for the talk (click here if you can’t see the embedded slides):

A screencast of my talk can be found here. Concurrent to my talk, my friend Kito Mann delivered his very cool talk on JSF and HTML 5 Web Components.

The second day of the conference in the late afternoon Ivar delivered a deep dive into the MicroProfile initiative. Concurrent to his talk Heather delivered a talk on JCP and Adopt-a-JSR. Later in the afternoon Ivar delivered a talk on the upcoming MVC specification. For those unaware, MVC was originally slated for Java EE 8 and is now a separate, community led JSR.

Overall this was another great year at DevNexus and I hope to be part of the conference next year.

DZone/Java EE Guardians Survey Results: Security

As some of you are aware, the Java EE Guardians and DZone jointly conducted a community survey to help determine Java EE 8 features prior to JavaOne 2016. You may also be aware that we shared the results of that survey with Oracle before the details of the renewed Java EE 8 scope was announced. Now is a great time to start analyzing those results a bit more. I’ve already done a high level summary of the results. I’ve also done a deeper dive into the responses for HTTP/2 and Servlet 4 as well as Java SE 8 alignment. In this entry I’ll take a look at the responses for revamping Java EE security.

Here is how the survey phrased the question:

“Java EE security is one of the last areas left to be revamped in the way most other APIs such as EJB 3 have been changed radically. As a result Java EE security is very highly dependent on things like vendor-specific GUI console wizards, vendor-specific configuration or command-line administrative tools. Pluggability, extensibility and customization is also currently challenging when the security features that already come with the application server are not sufficient.

This situation is the primary driver for the proliferation of third-party security frameworks in server-side Java such as Shiro and Keycloak. The Java EE Security API has been slated to solve these issues in Java EE 8. As an example securing a Java EE application could be as simple as writing the following annotation:

@DataBaseIdentityStore(
    lookup=”java:app/MyDB”, 
    userQuery=”SELECT password FROM principals WHERE username=?”, 
    rolesQuery=”SELECT role FROM roles where username=?”, …)

How important is it to revamp the Java EE security API?”.

The following graphic shows how the community responded. Support for revamping Java EE security is clearly fairly strong. 47% said it is very important while another 30% said it is important. Only about 5% said it is not important. It is the case though that support is not as strong as it is for example for Servlet 4 and Java SE 8 alignment. I think this generally makes sense. While there are decent options for Java EE security, HTTP/2 support and being able to effectively use Java SE 8 is far more foundational. If you are interested to learn a bit more about the Java EE Security API, a great place to start is the actual working specification draft.

Here are some representative comments from participants in the order that people filled in the survey: “One of the areas where no real standardization is done yet because you always need to have application server specific configuration”, “The currently available security features in Java EE don’t comprise a full end-to-end solution, to really secure an application one has to rely on vendor specific features”, “I always found it quite challenging to work with JAAS and the vendor specific configuration required to get it to work in different containers. I am really looking forward to simpler and better integrated solutions”, “Would be nice to get this into the app and out of the app’s XXXX.xml and container configuration. It would seem to be a step in the right direction to making apps more fully portable”.

It is important to note that in the original survey that helped launch Java EE 8, security related questions rank extremely high. Somewhat surprisingly Oracle’s own Java EE 8/9 survey did not directly include any questions on Java EE security. It did pose questions on OAuth/OpenID support which ranked extremely high. Judging by Oracle’s actions taken to move Java EE 8 forward, it seems they basically took for granted that Java EE security was important and the OAuth/OpenID question may have been more geared towards Java EE 9 (there are many such questions on the Oracle survey). The Java EE Security API is now moving ahead strongly to a completion date of around summer. It is sticking largely to the original scope defined for Java EE 8 while deferring OAuth/OpenID support to maintain delivery schedule (Oracle did in fact consider pulling in OAuth/OpenID support based on survey feedback).

Please do stay tuned as I further analyze specific topics in the survey. In addition to my write-up, I would encourage you to look at these survey results yourself and get involved in Java EE 8. You can certainly do so by becoming a part of the Java EE Guardians.

Java EE Adoption Story from Armen Arzumanyan

One of the most important things to do at this stage of the life-cycle of Java EE is highlight successful adoption stories at a regular cadence. The community has been doing just that for a long time including at JavaOne. A number of these stories are curated here. Armen Arzumanyan recently agreed to share his Java EE adoption story. He has developed a number of mission critical Java EE applications in his native Armenia and beyond. One of his applications – Taxpayer3 – was so impactful that it won an international award. Armen had a number of insightful things to say about Java EE worth paying attention to. I have highlighted specific passages that really stand out.

Can you kindly introduce yourself?
My name is Armen, I am a Java developer and architect. I have about ten years of experience in Java development. I was introduced to Java while working at Lycos Europe. At Lycos we used J2EE on JBoss to develop applications in the early days of Java.

Can you describe the applications that use Java EE?
The very first application I developed from scratch in Java EE was actually a social network! I was tasked with researching the technologies to implement the front-end as well as the back-end.

The requirements dictated that the front-end and back-end should run on different servers as well as provide a rich front-end.

I tried as much as possible to utilize Java web technologies.

Back in 2008, I was pleasantly surprised with JBoss 4.2.2 – it was possible to develop a @Stateless EJB 3 based back-end without any configuration! Meanwhile, for the front-end I chose JSF 1.2. JSF allowed directly connecting web form components from a web page to Java Beans. JSF is also based on component controls which saves development time. The important part of the page layout is covered well by Facelets.

Back then, EJB 3 POJO remote interfaces made me very happy. I was able to send/receive DTOs completely transparently (no JSON, no XML).

I prepared a short demonstration to my team with the front-end running on JSF/Tomcat and back-end running on EJB 3/JBoss 4.2.2. The demo was a success and was approved.

The second significant Java EE project I helped develop from scratch was Taxpayer3. Taxpayer3 was one of the biggest Java EE applications ever developed in the former USSR. In fact the project won a top international award due to it’s innovation and impact. Java EE covered all of our architectural requirements well – stable, stateless, productive and easy to upgrade.

Last but certainly not least two interesting Java EE projects I develop and support are an e-procurement system and ID-card printing system. In addition I support a very popular PKI Certificate Authority software used in lots of countries. The software is available at https://www.ejbca.org.

Why did you choose Java EE?
As a Java developer my introduction to enterprise Java started with the official Java EE tutorial. I think all Java developers should learn Java EE. Java EE gives you the fundamental skills for developing business-oriented applications.

Using Java EE and using application servers allow you to grow from a developer to an architect.

When people ask me “How did you become a senior Java developer?”, my answer is very short:

“I know Java EE”

It puzzles me that in some companies Java developers don’t know Java EE and create applications using just Tomcat that are very similar to what you can do easily with what Java EE already offers out of the box. People create a lot of service layers in their applications and every component can be injected into another, no matter where is it located. But with EJB 3 you get a lot of additional power because you can make fully interchangeable local and remote interfaces which speaks to the ability to really hide your implementation behind a façade.

For me Java EE applications have always been a success: you have real statelessness, you have components, you have REST, you have remote calls, you can easily upgrade from version to version, you never need much configuration, you are focused only on development and on business logic.

Another powerful capability is Message Driven Beans which allow you to easily enable asynchronous messaging.

One interesting fact I am finding out is that I have never really developed monolithic applications! In the least my back-end has always been isolated and interacts with the front-end via DTOs. With Java EE you are not limited to just REST and JSON, which some enterprises still don’t accept as a format. For example you could easily use SOAP or EJB remoting instead!

Once in an interview I got asked “Which version of JBoss have you used?”. I answered “JBoss 4.2.2, 4.2.3, 5.1 and 7.1″. The interviewer replied “You are hired”.

Nowadays with the microservices trend, WildFly Swarm looks very interesting. The framework enables you to develop microservices with JSF/PrimeFaces/Java EE.

How do the applications use Java EE?
In production I use a JBoss/EJB 3/JMS + MySQL-PostgreSQL-Oracle DB combination. Pure front-end parts with JSF run under Tomcat or JBoss.

How was your general experience with Java EE? Would you use it again?
I am using different technologies in different projects. Java developers should always explore a wide variety of solutions. But not understanding Java EE is like losing half of Java for no good reason.

Trying to compare technologies with each other is unwise. Instead we should compare technologies with project requirements, but you won’t find a future that doesn’t include the Java EE technology stack.

How can people contact you if they have questions?
My email is armen dot arzumanyan at gmail dot com and you can follow me on GitHub at https://github.com/armdev.

New Java Community Process (JCP) Membership Types and What They Mean

Last year the Java Community Process (JCP) introduced a couple of pretty important new membership types. Ever since Java EE 5 the community has played a larger and larger role certainly in shaping Java EE standards and these new membership types are important enablers in the same direction. In this post I’ll explain the new membership types and what they actually mean. I’ll also explain how I and the Philly JUG have used these new membership types.

The Existing Membership Types
Before getting into the new membership types I think it helps to explain what the existing membership types were. Before last year there was really two ways of joining the JCP – either as a company or as an individual. Company membership types are the original kind of JCP membership type. As scary as it is, this is basically the most common membership type for most standards bodies out there (yikes). Thankfully this has been the least common type of JCP membership for a long time.

However, even if you did want to join the JCP as an individual, you needed official permission from your company. This is a real hurdle for many people and I personally know of cases where people could not join the JCP exactly for this reason. As a long-time self-employed independent consultant this was a non-issue for me (I simply had to give myself permission to join :-)). This is how I served as an expert on the EJB 3.1, Java EE 6, JMS 2, Java EE 7 and EJB 3.2 expert groups. I believe I have been one of the most active members of those expert groups.

Either as an individual or a company, you are basically considered a “full member”. That means you can do pretty much anything in the JCP – including submitting your own JSR, becoming a specification lead, becoming an expert or running for a spot on the executive committee. In case you are wondering this also includes legally recognized non-profits like Apache.

Associate Member
The new Associate membership type is basically the same as the individual membership I’ve used for such a long time with one big exception. In order to join as an Associate member, you don’t actually need permission from your company. This does come with some limitations that I don’t think matter that much. You can’t become a specification lead. You can’t run for the JCP executive committee. Indeed you don’t get to be an “expert” on a JSR either. You can however become a “contributor” to a JSR.

In practice the difference between a “contributor” and an “expert” on a JSR is pretty meaningless for most people. As a mere “contributor” you basically can’t write specification text or contribute code to the compatibility tests (TCK) or the reference implementation (RI). You can do everything else like review specification work and participate in discussions. The truth of the matter is that I am one of the most active contributors in most of the Java EE JSRs I have been on and this is basically all I did anyway. As a result, I’ve actually chosen to join the JCP as an Associate member instead of  a full member for this reason. I am now a “contributor” to Servlet 4, Java EE 8 and Java EE Security. I still get to do exactly what I’ve done for years and get credit for it in the specification document.

To be honest, it would have been easy enough for me to get permission from my company to join as a full member. The reason I chose not to do that is because there wasn’t a need and I also wanted to encourage others to do exactly what I did. This is particularly important for JUGs and Adopt-a-JSR. I’ll explain more in the next few sections why this is.

Partner Member
Besides joining as a fully legally recognized entity, non-profits can now also join as Partner members. Very simply put, this is basically intended for Java user groups. Many of the larger Java user groups are actually legally recognized non-profits. For these JUGs, joining as full members is perfectly fine. Most JUGs in the world are not legally recognized entities. These JUGs can now join the JCP as Partner members. Partner members do have limitations. They can’t become specification leads. They can’t even join a JSR as an expert or a contributor. They can however do one very important thing – run for a seat in the JCP executive committee.

At the Philly JUG, we did not opt to become a legal entity yet. It’s just too much hassle with not enough of a benefit for us. As a result, the Philly JUG has joined the JCP as a Partner member. We are not running for the JCP executive committee yet, but we might.

Adopt-a-JSR
It’s important to understand how all of this relates to Adopt-a-JSR. The first thing to understand is that you can participate in Adopt-a-JSR without even being a member of the JCP. The issue is that you really don’t get recognized in the specification itself as either a contributor or an expert (but the lead still can make a special mention if they want). Your JUG does get listed on the Adopt-a-JSR JUGs page.

A much better way to go is to adopt a JSR, get your JUG registered as a JCP Partner member and get JUG members to become official contributors to the JSRs you are adopting as JCP Associates. This can all be done without any company being involved. This is exactly what the Philly JUG has done. The Philly JUG is now an adopter of Java SE 9, Servlet 4, Java EE 8 as well as Java EE Security.

I hope this writeup inspires you to join the JCP using the new membership types. In the many years that I’ve worked in the JCP, the oddest part has been the tiny number of exceptional people that actually participate actively. This really needs to change if Java is to remain successful. You need to be a part of that change.

If you have any questions on any of this, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ll try to help as much as I can. One resource that might help is the JCP page on membership types.

DZone/Java EE Guardians Survey Results: Java SE 8 Alignment

As some of you are aware, the Java EE Guardians and DZone jointly conducted a community survey to help determine Java EE 8 features prior to JavaOne 2016. You may also be aware that we shared the results of that survey with Oracle before the details of the renewed Java EE 8 scope was announced. Now is a great time to start analyzing those results a bit more. I’ve already done a high level summary of the results. I’ve also done a deeper dive into the responses for HTTP/2 and Servlet 4 support in Java EE 8. In this entry I’ll take a look at the responses for Java SE 8 alignment in Java EE 8.

Here is how the survey phrased the question:

“Java SE 8 brings a bounty of improvements – lambda expressions, the new date/time API, completable futures, streams and the fork/join common pool. Many of these features can be used with Java EE 7, but there remains many important missing pieces.

In particular Java EE APIs like JPA, JMS, JSF and JAX-RS need to be adapted to make full use of repeatable annotations, the date/time API and completable futures. In addition the fork/join common pool and streams currently cannot be safely used in Java EE environments.

How important is it to fully align Java EE with Java SE 8?”.

The following graphic shows how the community responded. Clearly developers think aligning Java EE 8 with Java SE 8 is extremely important. 66% said it is very important while 25% said it is very important. A mere 2% said it is not important. If you want to learn a bit more about Java SE 8 and Java EE, please do feel free to check out my slide deck on the topic. The deck is focused on how Java SE 8 can already be utilized in Java EE but also highlights clear gaps that can only be addressed through changes in Java EE 8.

The fact that developers feel so strongly about Java SE 8 is no surprise at all. Every reliable survey shows strong support for Java SE 8, including DZone’s. The most recent RebelLabs survey shows 62% adoption for Java SE 8 – far stronger and faster than any other recent prior version of Java.

Here are some representative comments from participants in the order that people filled in the survey: “Java SE 8 APIs are great”, “I’ve always believed that keeping EE on track with the corresponding SE release should be a very important element of every version”, “The changes in SE 8 are a huge improvement for the language. EE 8 users should also benefit from these improvements”, “EE should always be aligned with SE”, “Java SE 8 brought the next level of language features to Java and everyone must take advantage of it”, “This is the most important thing EE 8 needs to do.”.

The initial Java EE 8 charter clearly mentions Java SE 8 alignment as a major theme. Historically Java EE has always played a key part in bringing Java SE features into the enterprise. A particularly salient example was groundbreaking annotations support in Java EE 5 and EJB 3/JPA. Java EE 5 was the very first mainstream technology to clearly demonstrate how annotations can be used highly effectively as framework meta-data.

Somewhat surprisingly Oracle’s own Java EE 8/9 survey did not directly include any questions on Java SE 8 alignment and they have not specifically addressed the issue either. In practice at least some of the most obvious Java SE 8 alignment work seems to be moving forward for Java EE platform level common annotations, CDI, Bean Validation, JPA, JAX-RS and JSF. I have already asked for a more coordinated plan and will follow-up soon. If this is an important issue for you, please chime into the linked thread – it’s very easy to do.

Please do stay tuned as I further analyze specific topics in the survey. In addition to my analysis, I would encourage you to look at these survey results yourself and get involved in Java EE 8. You can certainly do so by becoming a part of the Java EE Guardians.

Morocco’s First Open Source ERP Uses Java EE 7!

One of the most important things to do at this stage of the life-cycle of Java EE is highlight successful adoption stories at a regular cadence. The community has been doing just that for a long time including at JavaOne. A number of these stories are curated at Zeef (Zeef is also written with Java EE). Mohammed Bounaga recently agreed to share a very cool such adoption story on deftERP – Morocco’s first open source ERP. Mohammed had a number of insightful things to say about Java EE worth paying attention to. I have highlighted specific passages that really stand out.

Can you kindly introduce yourself?
I’m Mohammed Bounaga and I’m from Ifrane, Morocco. I’m a software engineer and I have been working with Java EE for 3 years. I’m the creator and project lead of deftERP. This project is now powered by xHub, a Moroccan startup that supports and believes in open source projects, founded by Badr El Houari – Devoxx Morocco chair, Morocco JUG lead and Java Champion. We are now a small team of talented developers who are working in collaboration with the Java EE community to boost the development of this project and empower the open source ecosystem in Morocco and Africa.

Can you describe the product that uses Java EE?
After graduating from university, I decided to work full time at home on an interesting and challenging project while sharpening my software development skills. At that time, I had different project ideas including desktop and mobile applications; yet my final choice was to develop an ERP web application since I believe that enterprise applications require complex business processes and they are open for innovation and creativity and this is exactly what I was looking for. The first version of this product was a result of 18 months of hard work with ups and downs that required patience and self-motivation. DeftERP is an open source and smart ERP built with full Java EE 7 (JPA 2.1, EJB 3.2, JSF 2.2, CDI, Beans Validation, JAX-RS, JSON-P, WebSocket…). The product is currently dedicated to small businesses to help them embrace and take advantage of technology to automate their daily working process, reducing working time and energy, having a smart dashboard and some predictions to help them anticipate the future while of course increasing profit. The product currently includes 4 modules:  sales, purchases, inventory, and accounting and it’s cloud ready!

Why did you choose Java EE?
I had fallen in love with Java during my university years and it has always been my first choice, which is the case with deftERP. The only issue I had when I decided to start this project was which Java web framework to adopt. I spent a couple of weeks doing some research reading blog reviews from the Java community comparing different Java web frameworks including JSF, Spring MVC, and Struts. I was really impressed by the idea behind component based frameworks and how JSF is appropriate for rapid development while still giving you flexibility and room for creativity. What is also awesome about JSF is the availability of third party libraries such as PrimeFaces and OmniFaces that empowers developers with a great set of UI components that every application needs, and finally let’s not forget the fact that Java EE is not heavy anymore!

How does the product use Java EE?
The product is developed with Java EE 7. We are using JSF for the web layer with PrimeFaces as a components library. EJB for the business layer. JPA with the EclipseLink implementation for the persistence layer, WebSocket for real time notification, CDI is of course the glue that binds our application layers together with dependency injection, and we are using BeanValidation to validate our entities against predefined or custom rules (we have built a metadata programming model).

    How was your general experience with Java EE? Would you use it again?
    Of course yes, we were happy to know about the plans to move forward Java EE 8 during last JavaOne. We are even planning after releasing the new version to see how we can help in the Adopt-A-JSR program under the umbrella of Morocco JUG. We are also keeping an eye open on the MicroProfile initiative since we are looking forward to revamp and optimize the architecture of deftERP for a microservices architecture. At this stage we aim to include the voice of our community!

    How can people contact you if they have questions?
    Questions and contributions are always welcome!

    If you have a similarly great Java EE adoption story to share with the community (particularly migration stories from other technologies), please do reach out.

    RebelLabs Survey Shows Java EE Still Dominant, Solid Java EE 7 Adoption

    The RebelLabs Developer Productivity survey is one of the most important ones in the Java ecosystem. It is widely circulated and generally tends to have the most data points. The survey has always asked about Java EE as well as Java SE adoption. The results in the 2016 survey look encouraging for Java EE generally and Java EE 7 specifically, particularly given the seemingly perpetual nay-saying around Java and Java EE in predicable corners of our ever “colorful” industry.

    The RebelLabs survey is a bit different from the similar DZone survey in that it asks participants to make mutually exclusive adoption choices. You can either be a Java EE user or a Java SE user. You are only allowed to choose one specific version of Java EE. While this may not be entirely reflective of more complex scenarios in real life, it does make the results a bit more interesting from an analytical perspective. The 2016 results for Java EE adoption are shown in the graphic below. A clear majority of developers – 58% – identified themselves as Java EE users. This is truly remarkable for a mature open standard like Java EE with a number of non-standard product vendors aggressively positioning themselves as competitors to Java EE for many years now. Even more encouragingly developers seem to be solidly behind Java EE 7 – far more so than previous versions including Java EE 6. It is especially good to see the number of J2EE users at a low percentage.

    It’s remarkable how similar these results are to other surveys from reliable, neutral sources (the DZone survey results are in the graphic below). There has been another survey from the Vaadin team that also shows Java EE ahead of other alternatives amongst Java developers. I’ll highlight those results as well soon.

    While all of this is good news, the Java EE community can ill afford to rest on it’s laurels even for a moment. A number of us in the Java EE Guardian community were very worried what the RebelLabs survey was going to show in 2016. This is because the survey was taken when Oracle’s commitment behind Java EE 8 still remained very uncertain. In fact RebelLabs correctly noted this may be a reason for lower participant support for Java EE compared to other years and the Java EE community has hard work ahead of it.

    This is wise advice for the Java EE community and a reason to continue to try our best to advance Java EE. All that being said, it is important to remember that none of these are scientific surveys in any real sense so it is always a good idea to only make high level observations around them. Scientific surveys are truly random, have representative sample sets and clearly identify participants. Most of the surveys we have are unfortunately always self-selection based and at least partially anonymous/online.

    On behalf of the Java EE Guardian community it is only correct to thank everyone that indicate their support for Java EE and Java EE 7 in such surveys. Our volunteer driven work is intended to benefit you first and foremost – it is good to see that intent does not get lost in the muddle.