Middleware, notably Java, is entering a “renaissance” symbolized by innovation simplifying development and improving performance, according to JBoss Corp chief executive Marc Fleury.
Speaking to ComputerWire recently, Fleury claimed a fundamental re-think is underway, particularly around the framework for Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE).
Fleury’s views could be considered heretical in light of current perceptions, in part driven in part Sun Microsystems Inc, that middleware is becoming commoditized. It’s a notion that implies lack of differentiation and slow pace of innovation.
Sun has taken steps towards commoditizing the middleware market, by integrating its own servers, directories and other enterprise software products to deliver Java Enterprise System (JES), which Sun is selling on an annual, per-user-based price model.
The consensus among analysts, meanwhile, is the J2EE application server, portal and integration markets are becoming commoditized and over due for consolidation.
Not so, according to Fleury: Middleware is still in its infancy.
JBoss itself is working with other Java Community Process (JCP) members on the next version of Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs), part of the J2EE platform, with a view to improving the speed and slickness of programming.
JBoss supports the concept of Aspect Oriented Programming (AOP), a development methodology that means changes made in one part of an application ripple through the whole application, using a series of task-specific subprograms, or aspects.
Elements such as asynchronicity, for example, can be applied to a J2EE application by inserting an aspect, thereby simplifying development.
The job of simplifying Java development has largely fallen to the tools and platform vendors – with Sun’s Java Studio Creator and BEA Systems Inc’s WebLogic Workshop. Fleury though, believes tools can only mask J2EE’s complexity. J2EE is inherently complex, he said.
JBoss is helping take EJB 3.0 in a more AOP direction, with AOP techniques helping to potentially simplify the framework and programming itself. To succeed, though, requires an explosion in the number of aspects – a fact that will create a virtuous circle of activity, as aspects are designed by academia, implemented by industry and sent to standards bodies.
[J2EE] 1.5 [the next version of J2EE] is going to simplify the programming model. 1.6 will see an explosion in aspects. It’s a matter of the defining more aspects. It’s research-based now, Fleury said. There is a long way to go before we reach 1.6, but that is a natural evolution for the specification, as aspects let us modularize the middleware.