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Looking Back at Java: "Java's Great Missed Opportunity"

Exclusive JDJ Industry Profile: Dr Adam Kolawa, CEO, Parasoft

On March 8, 2004, Java Developer's Journal published the following profile of Dr Adam Kolowa (pictured).

Successful enterprises and successful business leaders often have two characteristics in common: focus and simplicity. In Adam Kolawa's case - CEO, chairman, and a cofounder of Parasoft 15 years ago - the simplicity manifests itself the moment you meet him. Here is a chief executive who knows how to prioritize.

Priority number one, as far as Kolawa is concerned, has always been verification. The alpha and omega of the Parasoft approach is that software cannot be said to work until it is verified - this includes Web services.

"This is something that I learned long ago," Kolawa explains, "and it's a major problem within the software industry. Companies build and develop software, hope that it works, but do not go to the necessary lengths to verify that the software actually performs and functions as it should.

This type of thinking, according to Kolawa, is especially detrimental to the development of Web services.

"Web services are complex systems that attempt to marry software, hardware, new code, legacy code, existing systems, systems in development, and who-knows-what on the client side," he says. "There are countless opportunities for things to go wrong - a slight mistake in any component or interface will cause problems that ripple throughout the system."

Kolawa accordingly believes that, as the Web services paradigm grows, managers above all need tools that will allow them to test their Web service initiatives for security, interoperability, and scalability. His own company, Parasoft, has pioneered a methodology known as "Automated Error Prevention," or AEP, which he believes is the answer to this problem.

What Has Java Done Right?
We will return to AEP later, but now I'm anxious to explore Kolawa's thoughts on the state of Java - the language, the platform, and the community. What, I wonder, does he think Java has done right...and what not? Is there anything in Java's history that he wished had turned out differently?

"I think the one thing that Java did right was its portability," Kolawa replies. "It always compiles and the code is portable at the compilation level. That's the great thing about Java and is what made it so powerful today.

"The single thing that I would like to change about Java's history is its separation from Microsoft. I think it is a shame that the technologies from both sides cannot be used together. Java seemed to be the perfect technology to bring Microsoft into the world of coexistence, and I think this opportunity got lost."

What, then, does Kolawa think the future holds in store for Java?

"I would be sure not to allow further expansion or complication of Java," he says immediately. "In order for it to stay successful, it needs to stay simple.

"If we start adding new features and syntaxes," Kolawa continues, "it will die. The main reason why Java came into use was because C++ was too complicated. So it would be wise not to expand the features or make it more complicated than it is."

What about J2EE, then? Is the latest generation of development tools easing the pain, or does he side with those in the Java community who say that J2EE is too unwieldy and complicated?

"The last generation of development tools did ease the pain somewhat, as they can automate some tedious tasks," explains Kolawa. "Something else that made development a bit easier is the appearance of the J2EE patterns. There are multiple ways of solving the same problem in J2EE, and that's where patterns are useful and where they can help a lot.

"Nevertheless, users need to also learn to identify and apply these patterns. And that's the basic problem with J2EE - it is still too complicated, just the specification is huge. There is a lot to learn before users can start writing any code. Development tools and patterns do help to a certain extent, but they can only do so much. Therefore, a complete knowledge and understanding of J2EE concepts would ease the pain more than any tool.

"Also, when things go wrong with the program it is quite difficult to find out what happened and to make things work correctly in multiple application servers."

What about Java on the desktop? Has Java lost the desktop battle to the likes of Flash and .NET?

"Yes, I think Java has lost the battle because of three major problems," Kolawa observes. "The first problem is that the Java Virtual Machine isn't being distributed with desktops, and to make an application reliable, you have to bundle it with the Java Virtual Machine. However, this creates the dilemma of large downloads," he adds.

"The second problem is that applications written in Java simply do not look as nice as those written in Flash or .NET. And finally, Java is slow on the desktop. Although this doesn't matter for servers, it is obvious that Java's speed hurts it on the desktop."

And does the JCP work? Is the principle sound or flawed?

"Well, every structured committee has its benefits and advantages depending on how well it is organized. In my opinion, the JCP can be successful if the right people are involved and there is strong leadership. However, if the decision makers of the JCP are interested only in manipulating it to their advantage, then obviously the JCP will be less successful due to poor leadership," Kolawa replies prudently.

Java Startup?
Next we play a brief game. We imagine for a moment I have some serious money to invest in a Java startup company. What type of company would he advise me to put my hard-earned dollars into? What's going to be big in the next 18 months?

"First of all," Kolawa says, candidly, "I would advise you to not invest in a Java startup company!

"There are already big players in this market," he adds, "and more and more are coming into the picture. It's going to be more crowded and difficult for a new startup to break through and be successful."

And even if it were his own money, no difference? He'd still look outside of Java?

"Under no circumstances would I invest in a Java startup company. If I do invest any money, I'll be sure to invest it in another type of company."

Web Services - What's the Downside?
Next we take a critical look at the Web services paradigm. Does Kolawa believe the view that it's really the philosopher's stone, the answer to all of an enterprise's integration problems? What are the consequences of the trend in enterprises to build fewer and fewer pure new applications and instead repurpose what they already have? Is it a poisoned chalice, I ask him - condemning us forever to be seeking the Holy Grail of integration?

"No, I don't think we will be condemned to search for any sort of Holy Grail," Kolawa replies. "I think that building fewer and fewer pure new applications is good in any industry that is trying to mature.

"Web services help us connect existing applications that are already running well," he adds. "This saves companies time and allows them to free up other resources to build and develop things that are needed at a more immediate time.

"Normally, organizations are so overwhelmed with things that technologies like Web services allow them to move forward, not backward. The more businesses develop from preconfigured parts the better. Just because developers repurpose and build from what they already have doesn't necessarily mean that new technologies will cease.

"Developers will always be developing new applications for new purposes," he says with characteristic optimism, "and there are constantly new ways in which we can pour human intelligence into computers."

Why Test
In return for such straight talking, it seems only fair to ask Kolawa about the subject of Parasoft, and about his vision of Automated Error Prevention software solutions that can help companies eliminate errors in software development throughout the world.

How would he define what inevitably is now called "AEP"?

"Put simply, AEP is the common-sense approach to controlling errors in software, and verifying that software performs and functions as intended," Kolawa replies. "As companies and consumers rely more on Web services, the importance of quality and reliability will continue to increase, thereby increasing the importance of Web services verification - including the verification of security, interoperability, and scalability."

Knowing that SOAPtest 2.5 is something Parasoft has just launched, I ask Kolawa whether there is a competitor to SOAPtest 2.5 - and if not, why not?

"While there are other Web services testing tools on the market, none of them are close to being a competitor to SOAPtest 2.5," he says. "As a part of Parasoft's AEP methodology, SOAPtest is the most comprehensive tool for Web services, allowing users to verify all aspects of a Web service, from WSDL validation, to unit and functional testing of the client and server, to performance testing."

It is SOAPtest's "flexible nature," according to Kolawa, that makes it an ideal choice for development engineers and QA professionals alike.

"As an important part of Parasoft's AEP methodology," he explains, "SOAPtest provides extended benefits when used in a team environment."

The Parasoft claim then is that it's the only Web services tool that supports an enterprise's entire Web services development team?

"Precisely. It's fully configurable for use throughout your Web services development group, allowing the exchange of development and test information between individuals and groups."

SOAPtest also provides individual and project-level reporting for easy test- result distribution among group members, Kolawa continues.

"In addition," he adds, "SOAPtest can also be used in conjunction with other Parasoft tools to build a system-wide verification process."

I ask for an example. "DataRecon can be used to verify the many problems related to SQL injections in Web services," Kolawa says. "Also, JTest and .Test can be used to test and verify Java and .NET implementations of Web services. Using SOAPtest by itself, or with other Parasoft tools, users can be certain that their Web services are fully functional from conception to deployment."

So Parasoft not only provides the tools, he notes, but also the methodology necessary to achieve superior development of Web services.

'SOA Will Succeed'
What about Kolawa's take on service-oriented architecture - is SOA just the new buzzword du jour, or does it have substance?

He answers without hesitation. "I think that service-oriented architecture is going to move forward and be successful," he says quite firmly. "There definitely is substance behind SOAs and this can be seen in the development in Web services such as e-Bay and Google, for example.

"These companies are starting to expose their APIs so consumers can take advantage of these available services. It's like I just said, companies like this are building from preconfigured systems, but Web services still allow for new opportunities. People are connecting their inventories to e-Bay and selling more products through this. Opportunities like this were never thought of, and now they are possible because of SOA."

Last, it wouldn't be right to pass up on the opportunity to ask Kolawa what he thinks the overall effect on Java will be of the compelling economics of Linux.

"Java has helped Linux so much because Linux is such a good engine to run Java middleware," Kolawa explains. "Linux and Java go perfectly hand-in-hand. If it weren't for Linux, Java wouldn't be as successful as it is, and if not for Java, Linux wouldn't be as successful either. It's a perfect partnership."

In Kolawa's view the hearts of enterprise systems will continue to be built on these technologies because they are relatively inexpensive.

"Java already has large amounts of already-written legacy code and has an extensive library," he says, "and Linux has proven to be very secure. In my opinion, I think these two technologies will dominate the middleware market, and I don't think there's room for .NET to break in."

Does he think open source is The Big Next Thing for the computing world?

"Yes and no," Kolawa answers carefully.

"Some things, like operating systems, should no longer be proprietary," he continues. "It's an old technology and it's well known how they are built.

"But somebody has to pay for innovation, so we will have a mix of proprietary and open source products. New software must be built by companies, and that will continue to be sold proprietarily. But after a while, some things become too obvious and they will move into the public domain."

Kolawa ends, as he began, with a simple point - though not everyone will necessarily agree with him (Darl McBride for one!).

"Software is like classical music," he says. "For instance, when a composer writes his music, it belongs to him in the beginning stages. But after years and years of playing this music for audiences, the song becomes familiar, and it becomes public property where anyone can play it."

I can't help wondering what the litigious SCO Group would have to say to that!

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Most Recent Comments
Omar F. Rodriguez 03/15/04 10:30:41 AM EST

Hi after all we have reached one point, I was telling you before that you can make a deploy easier, with Tools like JBuilder, (I am not promoting Borlands products here) but Jbuilder has a wizard that makes Native Executables for every platform, even so there is Install Anywhere where you can create Installators (.EXE etc), There is one time when i create an EXE in Jbuilder using Java3D and also used Install Anywhere to help me unpack DLLs in the system, nothing impresive

My opinion is that Sun has not the same vision that Microsoft, this is why i like Java because there is so many thing you can work with, not only one vendor, just my opinion. I learn something here

John Wright 03/12/04 03:36:09 PM EST

Java has always had a focus toward "web apps" and other than JVM version compatibility issues it does quite well for developing those. My interest has always been for desktop (and server) apps and not browser applets, etc.

That''s very true, Java 3D is "new" relative to most of Java. And Java 3D is not a part of "standard" Java.

The primary point of my original post was really the issue with the "JAR" extension being hijacked by other software products and the fact that deploying a desktop application is troublesome because of issues with the JAR extension and multiple JVM versions and/or the lack of a JVM on the client''s machine.

Sun could help us a *lot* by providing a tool that would build an "exe" launcher that could test for an appropriate JVM and launch our .jar Java application without confusion for the user. Long ago Codewarrior included this as part of their IDE but the EXE was JVM dependent and broke if the user installed a newer JVM.

Omar F. Rodriguez 03/12/04 02:30:54 PM EST

I have been working with Java making WEB apps and some Swing but mostly WEB (J2EE), refering to WEB i have found plenty of docs, But Something i think you are right in one thing that some autor mislead articles and docs.
Some books have a very interesting title but lacks in examples
But i think we missed the road, I have work with Borland JBuilder and Jdeveloper and i have done many of deployments, it´s not so hard

(By the Way when i ment "new" it was comparing to other Java Techs, relative it would be more accurent)

John Wright 03/12/04 01:53:28 PM EST

{laugh} Java 3D isn''t "new" we released an online virtual world which we openned to the public almost two years ago and our virtual world was in development two years prior to that and I considered myself as "late" starting in Java 3D as I started with v1.2 (current version is 1.3.1). And Sun has halted development of Java 3D so at the moment most of the community considers it a "dead API".

I think you misread me, the abundance of documentation is an excellent feature of Java! But sheer volume of documentation doesn''t mean that all of it is quality. Sun sends out developer hints regularly that teach a couple aspects of Java. This is an EXCELLENT aspect of Sun''s support of Java. These are GREAT! However I find it amusing that they sometimes explain that most of the examples in books and provided by us experts are wrong (we are just lucky our code happens to work 99% of the time because of some quirks). I''m specifically referring to the developer tip about running a program''s main Swing invocations from a separate thread. Virtually *no* example shows this and I''d be willing to bet 99% of all Java programmers don''t do it! (I''m *not* talking about Swing timers)

I''m referring to the December 8, 2003 Tech tip, quote: "Looking at this simple program, you might assume that there''s nothing wrong with it. Similar programs are in practically every tutorial and article on Swing, including those in the Core Java Technologies Tech Tips."

It''s quirks like these (including the fact that this "error" is in virtually all examples) that are killing Java.

Omar F. Rodriguez 03/12/04 01:22:57 PM EST

You just touch or mention a very funny fact.

You know that because i had that problem years ago, because i let that some other program take care of MIME types in my machine, the OS manages that, some other application take control or care of that particular kind of file, JAR in this case, you are just mentioning little thing that can be solve, believe me i had those troubles too, my respect to you because your large career, sorry to hear about "No good documentation"
But if there is no any Doc how is there are some many Java Developers? how DO they learn to do the things they must do to work?

About Java3D if you read carefully EULA and other notes, is still newly created is something still in development, some people think that MS .NET is something NEW and Original, they copied everything that Java has been developing thru years,

John Wright 03/12/04 01:12:04 PM EST

There is a difference between what I desire as a seasoned technical veteran and what I want my users experience to be. Yes, for the naive user "Webstart" is a fascinating deployment idea (assuming they have Java already installed). But in my opinion it has many flaws.

Java has a LOT of documentation (unfortunately not all of it very good). My personal library is now 24 Java books. I consider the availability of documentation an excellent feature of Java. Unfortunately once you get past doing the basics documented in the books the API documentation is often sparse or misleading. And I speak as a seven plus year veteran Java software developer.

Windows has spoiled people - yes, why learn arcane complex technical tricks and details if you can just click and run something?

I''ve deployed over a half dozen Java applications worldwide and I field a lot of confused questions wondering why, when a user double clicks on a JAR file, a compression program (usually WinRAR or UltimateZip) tries to uncompress your program rather than letting Java run it! Classpath issues drive myself and my associates crazy even after *years* of experience dealing with them.

Add in problems like the legality of distributing Java 3D. Sun says we can freely include it on a CD but we can''t make it available on a webpage (might be downloaded by someone in a prohibited country) we have to point our customers to Sun''s webpages.

Java has some excellent design features (and many that are very annoying too) and I cringe at the thought of changing languages again (I''ve used two dozen languages over my career). For me Java was to be the "last" language I learned. But now I find myself investigating alternatives.

Provide native compilers for Windows and Linux and I''d probably not give another language a second thought.

Omar F. Rodriguez 03/12/04 11:47:28 AM EST

And One more thing is the same people that say that UNIX sucks comparing to Windows, why? because is much easier manage a Windows server that a UNIX to them. Windows world has spoiled many people

Omar F. Rodriguez 03/12/04 11:43:14 AM EST

I am agreed with Mr Joseph Ottinger, there is plenty of information, i dont really posses a great collection of books of Java, but when i´ve been searching an information i ´ve always found it,
First Mr Wright said that Java Deployment is a nightmare, that´s a lie, because there plenty of tool that make easy a Java Deployment, but some pleople might say that because Java is not a Microsoft Full Wizard Language where the programmer has no knowledge of what is going on, Windows does Everything, Even i know some people that really think that Oracle suck comparing to MS SQL Server, well they say that because to them is really easy manage a DB like SQL Server, to them manage a ORacle DB is a nightmare.
Why? because there are something that requires intelligence like in Java, not everything has to be done by wizard, besides there are a lot of programmers that want to make Javap rograms programming like in Visual Basic.

Joseph Ottinger 03/12/04 09:34:16 AM EST

Mr. Wright - from the web start docs at http://java.sun.com/products/javawebstart/overview.html and other documentation, the JWS is started through the use of a browser object, which is not reliant on Java, unless I misinterpret the intent. Unfortunately, I don''t have a machine without Java installed to test with.

Past that, I sort of understand your disgruntlement, although it seems contrary - you want your users to not have to interact with the installation, yet you complain that they don''t have any control over where files are located.

John Wright 03/12/04 09:23:03 AM EST

Mr. Ottinger, the first thing that is wrong with "Webstart" is that it requires the user to have Java installed in the first place. And this is problem because I have a number of customers that have software that only works with Microsoft''s VM and their tech support is requiring that Sun''s Java be removed. The second problem I have with Webstart is that it is "online". Many customers still have dial-up Internet access or are behind firewalls and are restricted in what they can do (if they even have Internet access at all). The third problem I have with it is that installation / webstart usage is completely out of the control of the user. It downloads files and places them in locations the user is unaware of or may not desire. I''ve personally experienced a few webstart applications that prompt the user to relax their security settings in order for the application to work. In times where customers have no idea what to trust and the general rule of thumb is now "just say no" it flat out stops many webstart applications from being able to be used. I''ve actually gotten to the point myself where I now refuse to even look or try a webstart application.

Joseph Ottinger 03/12/04 08:25:03 AM EST

Mr. Wright, what''s wrong with Webstart? When I used it, it worked; it was trivial; nothing really special or spectacularly wrong with it, and it was certainly trivial for a user to work with. That seems to *fit* your requirements.

Further, what examples of bugs (or non-bugs) are you referring to?

John Wright 03/12/04 07:28:24 AM EST

Several excellent points:
1) Deployment of Java is a nightmare. The single biggest flaw of Java is the difficulty of deploying an application to a customer in a manner which is easy and foolproof for the customer.
2) Java needs to avoid feature creep. We don''t need all the fancy additional features. We need better documentation; a standard and reliable deployment scheme (NOT Webstart!!); we need reliable APIs (too many *bugs* are dismissed as not a bug and called "misunderstood documentation").

Omar F. Rodriguez 03/10/04 09:46:38 AM EST

This is my opinion and nothing more, but i dont think this a decision made from Java, be aside of microsoft, i think that microsoft made that step because the saw Java as a threat to them

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