The Next Evolution of Java: Faster Innovation, Simpler Adoption
Rapid releases and enhanced cloud capabilities ensure Java stays cutting-edge by adapting to trends like AI while simplifying adoption for the next gen of developers.
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I sat down with Georges Saab, Senior Vice President of Development for Oracle's Java Platform Group, and Chad Arimura, Vice President of Developer Relations, at Oracle CloudWorld, to get an insider's perspective on how Java is evolving to stay relevant for the next generation of cloud-native development.
Rapid Releases Accelerate Capability
A major inflection point was Oracle's shift to a rapid six-month release cycle for Java starting in 2017. When this dramatic increase in velocity was first announced, many developers were skeptical it could be pulled off without sacrificing stability.
However, Saab explained they intended to deliver smaller but more frequent incremental enhancements to the platform. This cadence has paid major dividends - Java has seen more innovation in the past five years than in the preceding decade.
The impact on developers is profound - they gain access to powerful new capabilities like pattern matching, text blocks, sealed classes, records, and virtual threads far sooner than in the past. The consistent, predictable release cadence also provides stability for enterprises to plan adoption and take advantage of new features.
Powerful Features Tackling Modern Challenges
Saab emphasized Project Loom's virtual threads, which arrived in Java 19 after years of development, as another true game changer. Virtual threads allow developers to maximize modern multicore hardware when building concurrent applications by simplifying thread management. This unlocks whole new dimensions for writing high-performance, cloud-native Java.
Looking ahead at initiatives still in the pipeline, Saab spotlighted Panama and Valhalla as two projects that will open exciting new doors for Java developers once delivered in full. Panama aims to provide a native interoperability API that allows Java code to efficiently interact with data and libraries outside the JVM. Valhalla introduces value types to improve performance through flatter data representations. Both will expand what is possible with Java.
Java in the AI Era
Given the explosion of interest and investment in artificial intelligence across the technology landscape, I asked Saab and Arimura how Java is adapting to be successful in AI development. Saab asserted he sees Java's fortunes as essentially tied to AI - as AI becomes ubiquitous across enterprises for tasks ranging from personalization to forecasting, operationalizing AI will require Java's scalability, raw performance, and robust tooling.
Saab drew parallels to Java's emergence 20 years ago as the premiere platform for operational big data systems. He predicts a similar evolution where in several years' time one will hear adopters say "When AI apps grow up, they become Java apps."
Arimura noted Java 19 already added new API building blocks tailored for AI, like the Vector API for high-performance numerical processing. He also highlighted how core innovations like Loom for easier concurrency and Valhalla for flattened data representations directly address technical challenges posed by AI workloads, where efficiency and throughput are paramount.
Ultimately, they envision Java becoming a "first-class citizen" for AI development teams, powering the mission-critical inference systems that will shape business.
However, Saab and Arimura did offer a disclaimer that they see a future where organizations leverage multiple languages for different applications. They noted Java may not be best suited for training and experimentation. However, they emphasized how seamlessly Java integrates with other languages like Python and its strengths for battle-tested production deployment of AI systems at scale.
Simplifying Adoption for the Next Generation
I also asked Saab and Arimura how Java is lowering the barrier to entry and making adoption simpler, especially for new developers just entering the workforce.
Arimura highlighted incubation features introduced in Java 19 like simplified coding of small programs and scripts without required boilerplate as examples of enhancements to improve learnability. These provide beginners quick wins that set the foundation to then layer on more advanced concepts.
Saab stressed the importance of excellent education materials that teach modern Java best practices. He praised initiatives like Oracle's new dev.java portal, filled with accessible tutorials on the latest language capabilities for university students and professional developers of all skill levels. Resources like these reflect the passion of the vast Java community.
Overall, they emphasized how creating a more intuitive on-ramp for new developers to experience Java's capabilities today will pay dividends for ecosystem vitality and continued dominance tomorrow as technologists enter the workforce.
I also asked about Java's role in cloud-native development, which has become central to enterprise digital transformation. Arimura explained how key additions like virtual threads make building highly scalable, resilient cloud services far easier for Java developers.
Saab also cited improvements like Elastic Metaspace introduced in Java 19 which optimizes garbage collection for container environments. Additionally, he highlighted how standards like Jakarta EE evolve Java for cloud architectures by adding capabilities to connect and deliver insights from microservices.
Together, these examples demonstrate how Oracle continually advances Java to align with emerging application patterns and infrastructure, keeping it at the forefront of cloud-native development.
The Road Ahead
In summarizing our conversation, Saab and Arimura made clear that Java is firmly on the path not just to maintaining, but expanding its position as the world's most ubiquitous and influential programming platform.
With its rigorous standards process ensuring stability for decades of existing systems, vibrant passionate global community focused on continuous improvement, rich commercial and open-source tooling ecosystem, and constant measured evolution within a predictable rapid release cycle, Java appears exceedingly well-positioned to empower software innovation across industries for many years to come.
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