Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Java is mature. The software-teens are over.

Just a few words on why we would expect less expensive maintenance and better quality in our software systems by using Java and following the standards (de-facto or formal). And also on why I think Java is mature and will not go away for some time.

I would like to compare with the construction of things. Until well into the industrial revolution, every part of something (eg. a clock) was made by hand. And every craftsman had his own approach to this, and it was labor intensive. Screws for example had all sorts of screw threads with different angles, lead, pitch, diameter and handedness. This also meant that if something broke, you had to get that exact copy, probably from the same craftsman (or his son...), no other screw would do.

The same goes with construction of houses. Well into the 50´s there was no obvious standard. Every window in a house was tailor made, they looked alike but had small deviations due to optimizing the usage of materials. The size of a beam was constructed from the "feeling" of the carpenter and the available resources. Standardization has brought many good things into play; training of carpenters, estimation of cost, material and labor, lower prizes due to mass-production; everything is built in 60cm sections.

Now what has this to do with software? Most of today's legacy systems (all the way from the early cuts on software development) where built in a time or with a technology where everything had to be made from scratch. There where virtually no components and there where no good technology for using components. Also training was bad, Computer Science was in its infancy. Every programmer mastered its own discipline, and strange arguments could be heard in the corridors; should arrays start with 0 or 1; big-endian or not, new line before or after comma? These "great" discussions are really a waste of time, the real value is not there. It is in standardization and doing things so that others can do maintenance and understand what the system does. But as with the screws and windows; doing is learning, is was the software-teens we had to get through.

These legacy systems work, but only after a close study, and they will always be hard to maintain, just because everything is tailor-made. If it was a building it would either be condemned, or it would be protected by the antiquarian.

Recently we had a PoC where we found that validating an xml-file (by streaming through it) was just some lines of code. Various legacy versions is much larger. Which do you think gives the most cost-efficient maintenance and ease of change? Which is most robust as to change in who does maintenance on the system? Which one is faster?
SchemaFactory schemaFactory =
Schema schema = schemaFactory.newSchema(new File(schemaFile));
Validator validator = schema.newValidator();
validator.validate(new StreamSource(new BufferedInputStream(new

I think after approx 60 years of software development and now 15 years of Java (that was 45 years without), we see a very mature language, a great set of standardized technologies, a vast number of components and systems, a large community and supplier base, and a resilient run-time architecture.

I can't see that we could make a better choice.

(We are seeing new efforts into more efficient languages, but for now they are niche players. If a new language should replace Java, it would probably take 10-15 years of maturing before it could actually be there. Just think of all the work put into the Virtual Machine... And as I have argued; the real value is in how we actually construct software systems, not the language by itself)
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Java is mature. The software-teens are over by Tormod Varhaugvik is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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