Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Roger Strukhoff, Pat Romanski, Mehdi Daoudi, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

J2EE vs .NET: Where Is Application Development Going?

Duncan Mills Outlines The Rise and Rise of the Meta-Framework

Where is application development going? What's the next cool thing? You may have answers to these questions, your answers may be the same or different to mine or anyone else's. The point is we just don't really know, and that's a problem. Saying to the manager of enterprise development shops "Oh yes just standardize on J2EE and everything will be fine" is not going to cut it. These folks are savvy enough to know that J2EE is a minefield of choice in standards and APIs. They need and deserve more direction than that.

So you can make a suggestion as to a good set of technologies to use in a particular scenario - let's say Toplink, Lucene, Struts and JSP, as a random example - but of course there's a catch. You've just flagged a whole bunch of different technologies and APIs, each with a learning curve, each with different download locations or vendors and possibly conflicts in the APIs they consume.

This is, I think, why .NET presses a lot of the right buttons. It's a Meta-Framework - a one stop shop. Say to a development manager you just have this one thing to do everything you need, and of course it's going to be attractive, irrespective of what the reality might be under the covers.

There is no doubt that there are a lot of fantastic point solutions and frameworks out there in the J2EE world, but as standalone islands of functionality they have a much harder sell in the corporate market. If we look for frameworks that have been successful and widely adopted and examine them to see what gives them the edge what will we find? Take Struts for instance (love it or hate it). I'd be hard pressed to call Struts a meta-framework by my current thinking, but for it's time, it was. It wasn't just a collection of taglibs, that's what everyone was doing, it was taglibs plus a front controller, and it evolved to encompass validation as well. Struts became a worthwhile skill because with that one notch in you belt you can tackle a good chunk of an applications development.

What Defines a Meta-Framework today?

Here are what I would regard as the key attributes of a meta-framework:

Broad Scope - the framework needs to cover everything from UI creation and page flow controller functionality to integration with multiple service providers including EJB, Web services, POJO and so on. It's not just a vertical slice through. Pluggability - the flexibility within the meta framework to incorporate choice into the stack. There is no reason at all that a meta-framework cannot encapsulate existing best of breed service providers, this is particularly true in an area like O/R mapping where I might want to use EJB, I might want to use a POJO based Toplink solution, or something totally new might come along. Just give me the choice (but feel free to offer best practice solutions).

Coexistence - Given that it's unlikely that a meta-framework will be able to implement everything itself it's going to be in turn a consumer of service frameworks - this is implicit in the pluggability argument. This in turn implies that the coupling between services within the framework has to be loose otherwise the pluggability dream cannot be fulfilled. Also, however, it imposes a degree of responsibility in the provider of the meta-framework.

Someone has to test all this stuff together, are there classloading problems for instance, do all these components share the same version of key APIs and so on. If you construct you own bespoke architecture this is something you'd have to worry about. If you consume a meta-framework one of the things you should be getting is this certification. Of course that might mean that components within a meta-framework are not absolute cutting edge within a specific genre, but do developers want cutting edge or do they want assured working?


Abstraction
- where you have choice you need abstraction. If I want to swap out my O/R mapping layer I don't want to have to adopt a whole new set of APIs at the binding or transactional glue points. The meta framework needs to add value here, standards such as the common databinding proposed by JSR 227, are ideally placed to provide this type of plumbing.

I not dumb enough to suppose that swapping out is actually common within an individual application, but the point is the same skillset can be reused between projects or where a project has a heterogeneous set of providers. Abstraction generally is where meta-frameworks can add the most value because it leads into the next point - longevity.

Longevity - APIs change, this is a fact of life, Frameworks provide a level of abstraction on top of the base platform APIs and a degree of insulation from that change as a result. But frameworks change too with time, particularly active community driven ones. Meta-frameworks can add another layer of abstraction and programmer insulation on top of this shifting morass. You code to the Meta-framework and the plumbing in is handled for you, as the sands shift, the meta-framework adapts to that on your behalf. Can this work in reality? Well yes, certainly in the world of propriety frameworks we have environments like Oracle Forms which have persisted and evolved for almost 20 years, bringing code forward from VT terminals, through Windows GUIs to the Web, essentially unchanged, although perhaps enhanced as more capabilities appeared.

This then is the major carrot that meta-frameworks can offer to enterprise development shops - stability, but without stagnation. A meta-framework has to evolve and offer it's consumers the latest and greatest whilst at the same time maintaining a rock solid foundation for existing applications.


Tooling
- Meta-frameworks will often be based around both coded abstraction layers and a large amount of in-metadata configuration. As such having tools support is an important part of the picture. Tooling can add yet another layer of abstraction through alternative visualizations such as diagramming or GUI screen designers. This helps with the whole future proofing issue..


But Why Now?

Why should you believe that meta-frameworks have any traction? We've not really seen any SOA-like marketing buzz around such frameworks, no great vendor splashes. Well, I think now is the time because it's happening in a stealthy and underhand way in any case. If we ignore the vendors for a second and just look at the standards and trends: What's the big trend at the moment? - well POJOs and IOC, think EJB 3.0, think Spring, you name it - loose coupling in other words.

I also think that the JavaServer Faces (JSF) standard is also a key player here. JSF offers an abstracted UI definition and event handling model that can be run across multiple devices. That's a large chunk of meta-framework right there. If I learn JSF I can code for mainstream browsers, handhelds and even industrial telnet devices with a single skill set. That works for me!

Where Are The Meta-Frameworks?

We've see that Microsoft can do it with .NET, but they have the luxury of almost total control. Are fully fledged meta-frameworks possible in the open standards J2EE space?

Well yes I think it can be done, many frameworks aspire, but most of those that do so do not have the scope of a true meta-framework. Maybe they only support one UI technology, or only allow EJBs for persistence. That's not good enough, a framework must be adaptable and willing to evolve to drink the soup du jour, but of course do that in a balanced and supportable way. To date I'd say that to varying degrees, the Oracle ADF framework and the Spring framework are closest in exhibiting most of the essential meta-framework attributes. Keel is also out there in this space but is lacking traction and is unlikely to be that attractive to large enterprises.

Meta-frameworks then, have the potential to offer exactly what the large enterprise shops need: a certified technology stack with the flexibility to meet the majority of requirements, and the promise of a lifetime that matches the application being built with it.

I think it's inevitable that meta-frameworks are in the the domain of the commercial vendors (and I include in the grouping the vendors operating on a Service basis for open source as well as the paid-for-product vendors). Maintaining a meta-framework is a long term and expensive commitment, it's going to have to be paid for, either through license costs on the framework itself, or through support/service costs. It's also got to be backed by companies that stand a chance of being around for the required timescales.

The vendors though, are out there and ready to jump into this space. The meta-frameworks are coming...

More Stories By Duncan Mills

Duncan Mills is senior director of product management for Oracle's Application Development Tools - including the JDeveloper IDE, and the Oracle Application Development Framework. He has been in the IT industry for the past 19 years working with Oracle, Java, and a variety of more obscure programming languages and frameworks along the way. Duncan is the co-author of the Oracle Press book: Oracle JDeveloper 10g for Forms and PL/SQL Developers - a Guide to Web Development with Oracle ADF.

Comments (7) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Greg 04/15/05 02:00:46 PM EDT

IBM has a product offering called EAD4J. They are billing this as a J2EE Meta-Framework solution. I'd be interested in knowing if anyone has used this framework(it is a bit pricey) and if it has met your needs.

Look Here 04/15/05 04:28:36 AM EDT

Each of the components in Keel must be defined in a configuration file. The default components are configured in a configuration file called "system.xconf". These configuration files are the driving parameters for the KeelContainer; the repository of all Keel components.

keelAppeal 04/15/05 04:01:46 AM EDT

I know Keel follows strict MVC with support for Struts, Cocoon, Velocity, Axis/SOAP and many more - anyone using this server-side Java meta-framework? It conforms to the design pattern of component-oriented programming, right? So it's that COP concept that makes it a 'framework of frameworks'?

Duncan Mills 04/15/05 02:52:05 AM EDT

On the subject of Jeneva, my understanding is that that is primarily a .NET based Glue layer, rather than being an all emcompassing meta-framework. This though illustrates the point nicely that a meta-framework needs to be open and pluggable enough to integrate such additional functionality, becoming an ecosystem in its own right and a seed for additional point solution growth.

Duncan Mills 04/15/05 02:44:18 AM EDT

[quote]Have you tried Apache Tapestry?[/quote]
There is no doubt that Tapestry is a great framework, but it fails the meta-framwrok test on several counts in that
really takes too narrow a slice of the problem space and the crucial longevity factor is not assured. Howard Lewis Ship has, as we know, boundless energy and enthusiasm - but is it enough?

Peter 04/14/05 05:50:05 PM EDT

JANEVA from Borland software bridges the gap between J2EE, .NET and CORBA like no other product and with it there's no reason to play JAVA vs. .NET because you can develop integrated applications that leverage both, or all three.

Paul 04/14/05 03:14:43 PM EDT

Have you tried Apache Tapestry? From what I have seen/heard, a significant group of people have been moving their Struts projects to Tapestry. I have started to briefly look into it, and, from what I have seen so far, I am VERY intrigued.

@ThingsExpo Stories
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"Digital transformation - what we knew about it in the past has been redefined. Automation is going to play such a huge role in that because the culture, the technology, and the business operations are being shifted now," stated Brian Boeggeman, VP of Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone inn...
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The 22nd International Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, to be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, brings together Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, discussed how they built...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Among the proven benefits,...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile exhibited at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on qua...