Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reflections on Progress and IONA from Reykjavik

I have spent the day traveling on airplanes, and finally arrived in beautiful Reykjavik at about 1600 without baggage but very glad to be in Iceland again. It's a beautiful, awe-inspiring landscape and the people are lovely. Is this a thing were folk from island nations naturally resonate with each other? Anyway: I'm here doing some work on Apache CXF with a big player in the telco market here. I look forward to getting stuck in tomorrow.

I've been out of touch for most of the day, gleaning information on a drip about today's big news that Progress Software has agreed to purchased the company I work for, IONA Technologies, later this year. This is a really great move for Progress; IONA has strong technology offerings, an innovative engineering department and a smart services organization hell-bent on customer success. It's also a fantastic opportunity for the great people I work with in IONA to play an even bigger role in the SOA market. Today's statement also indicated continued investment in IONA's Orbix, Artix and open-source FUSE offerings; I'm looking forward to seeing how Progress will approach a blended, hybrid business model. And, I can't wait to get my hands on Progress's technology :)

IONA has been such a great place to work, since my first incarnation here in 1995 as an engineer. I was reminiscing with myself over dinner on all the places I've traveled to while working as a consultant in the "old IONA", and got so excited that I mapped them on Google Maps. Check it out! Now, where is the new Progress going to take us?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tales from the Serverside Prague - Day III

Hurrah for Scala! Ted Neward showed us all the sheer joy of Scala this morning. I think I might be hooked. Yet now I am truly torn: to which language do I dedicate my spare cycles - jRuby, Groovy or Scala? The answer I think is all of them, for the sheer fun of it. The exotic part of me says jRuby first, but then the pragmatic part of me says Scala might be the way to go.

I've been dipping in and out of the day since then: I sat in on John Davies replay of his extreme transaction processing material. After his talk the feedback forms were glowing with positives like "the best material in the whole conference" Nice work John - just what we'd expect from an IONA employee ;)

Ola Bini from ThoughtWorks showed off couple of jRuby test frameworks; one of the nice side applications of this, apart from testing your jRuby code, is that you can use jRuby to test your Java code. As it turns out I spent most his talk down the back doing some Junit test cases for a project I'm working on at the moment; there is not doubt that Ola's tests in jRuby looked a hell-of-a-lot less verbose than my Java-bound test framework.

I attended the fireside chat on Architectural Patterns in Mule by Antoine Borg. He's doing a great job; that said, it's all the same as the stuff I covered in my own fireside chat yesterday! The EIPs supported by Mule directory are implemented in XML; while functionaly equivalent it's no where near as ergonomic as the Camel DSL, in my humble opinion. I've done XML-based EIP before, and you can get bogged down in XML. It is nice to see that Mule 2.0 is using Spring Schemas to simplify the XML configuration.

Off home in a few hours to Dublin. This year's TSSJS in Prague was a really high quality event; hats off to the speakers, and a big thank you to the tech target team!

Tales from the Serverside Prague - Day II

Neal Ford gave a cracking keynote this morning on the evolution of programming abstractions towards domain specific languages. He talked about internal DSL's (like Apache Camel) using fluent interfaces in languages like Java, and proposed that internal DSL's work better in languagues like ruby and groovy. Ultimately though, internal DSL's are limited by the language they're embedded in, forcing you to match the parent language's syntax . In an external DSL, you design your language from scratch; this year a number of products (like mps from JetBrains) will address the problem of how to easily create domain specific languages.

There was a whole part of Neal's talk about considering XML to be "deprecated". My friend Ciaran McHale has believed this since day one ;) Neal did concede that XML is "marginally OK as a data format", but in terms of configuration or communicating intent it's overkill.

Eugene Ciurana's presentation on real-world SOA & event-driven architecture showed a really nice case study of a SOA system. One of the biggest challenges on this is how to get information from millions of network-enabled children's toys. Interesting stuff, but also interesting in terms of the price tag; he saved quite a lot of money by using open source infrastructure along with best-of-breed commercial products.

I hooked up with Ted Neward and the new editor of TSS, Peter Varhol on the way to John Davies's talk on extreme transaction processing. Ted is in great form; we had a chat about DSLs and what it might take to get the JVM to make the most of multi-core CPUs. Dammit we should have had a tape recorder; who knows though, maybe there was some secret agents knocking around. That said, many of the things we had chatted about came up again in the expert panel on next generation languages, with Ted Neward, Ola Bini and Guillaume LaForge. Ola's jRuby talk later on has shown me the light; I am now torn between going headlong into either a scala or jRuby devlopement binge.

Kirk Pepperdine blew everyone away with a presentation on Java performance and concurrency. The rise of the multi-core CPU means that now, more than ever, sloppy multi-threaded code is going to begin to throw up problems that never arose in our single CPU machines. Hmmm. Maybe I'll hang on to this old single-CPU Dell laptop for a bit longer...

I gave a fireside chat on implementing enterprise integration patterns using Apache software. I've been working with the FUSE distribution of ServiceMix, Active MQ, Camel and CXF for some time now and it was nice to get a chance to share the experience. I showed off the Camel DSL, and we went on to talk about innovation adoption (getting around the "let's just code it up in Java" objection), open source licensing (is there a best license / business model?), and whether standards really matter. On that last point I think we reached some agreement: standards matter at the edges of your system where you're working with other parties. Internally, however, you're free to do whatever you want.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tales from the Serverside Prague - Day I

Day one at the server-side Java Symposium in Prague; but the fun started last night when Kirk Pepperdine smacked me for suggesting that the agenda was very like last year. Last year in Barcleona was all about caching technologies; this year the focus is on dynamic languages: jRuby, Groovy and Scala are all on the agenda.

Stephan Janssen kicked off the day's proceedings with a really good keynote on the landscape of technologies for developing rich internet applications, including DHTML, Google Web Toolkit, Flex/Air & JavaFX. I think what was most impressive is that he showed how the web-site (an educational web-site for posting up tech talks including audio, video and slides) has been built using all four (five, if you include this Silverlight version). Kudos to Stephan: I've always felt that when you apply a number of techhnologies to the same problem you get a really good picture of which works best. The message? DHTML was difficult. GWT was great, but needed one or two tickles to support Internet Explorer. Flex/Air was great, but you have two different development streams for your online & offline application code. Finally, JavaFX is very promising, but adoption may be hindered by the fact that the nice guys at Sun haven't got a version of JavaFX for Apple Mac yet.

Costin Leau from SpringSource gave an in-depth view of how Spring Dynamic Modules supports OSGi development and deployment. Benefits? Better modulatory, versioning of artifacts and operations control. I look forward to seeing how the new SpringSources Application Platform (based on Tomcat, OSGi and Spring) gets on. Hmmm. Am I the only on that's shocked though that after more than 12 years of Java, we're still coming up with new ways to prevent class loading problems?

GigaSpaces Nati Shalom's session was notable in that he discussed that business drivers behind the need of scalable systems: the number of financial transactions, data, and users is constantly growing. Further, the number of traffice spikes (overload situations that can bring down your business is growing). The challenge is to scale up cost-effectively while not sacrificing reliability and performance. Over-provisioning is one expensive way of catering for peak traffic, but has lead to average industry server utilization rates of 15-20%.

Michael Keith from Oracle presented on SOA using Service Component Architecture (SCA). SCA is all very reasonable and sensible, but I'm not convinced that it's something that developers can get really excited about.

Mike Aizatsky from Google's presentation on synchronization models for multi-threaded applications was a gem, where he described nine models including the unexpected "No Multithreading" threading model. His advice: pick the simplest model, don't over-engineer your solution. I really enjoyed this talk and got a lot out of it. On the way out of Mike's talk I caught the end of Holly Cummin's presentation on java performance tuning & contented(!) locks; it's a pity these two sessions were on the same time, as they would have really complemented each other.