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The state of Java and the JVM ecosystem in 2017


Java was initially developed in 1995 and it has come a very long way. Many of you might already have experience with Java, but here is a fun short film to get started.

It was part of a conference, so ignore the promo at the end if you want to.

Java has been a subject of praise, criticism, rants and what not. But recently there has been a very quite a few interesting developments regarding both the language and the JVM ecosystem. I see these changes as a massive turnaround to how Java/JVM was being developed and it could change the future.

Recent updates

1) Moving Java faster

This blog post caught my eye - Moving java forward faster by Mark Reinhold. Mark is the chief architect in the Java Platform Group at Oracle.

Some key takeaways of the blog post.

  • JDK release cycles are set to become shorter. Six months for major versions.
  • Long term support for major releases. Initial plan is for three years.
  • Quarterly update releases.

You might wonder that six months is still quite slow but for a language/platform this massive, it is very impressive if achieved.

I encourage you to read the article in its entirety.

2) Oracle plans to open source its JDK

To the folks who are new to Java or have not programmed in it. There are multiple JDKs that you can use to develop. Oracle JDK, Open JDK and a few other ones. The wikipedia page maintains a list of them.

Until recently, Oracle announced that they will be open sourcing their JDK -

This is big news since it was always a confusion among the community on which one to choose. Open JDK is mostly preferred, but there was this conundrum that Oracle JDK had better features and gets updates faster. All that is going to change and in due course of time, Oracle JDK will be merged with Open JDK.

3) Java EE gets a reboot and is donated to Eclipse Foundation

Java EE was in a very poor state, partly because feature updates were very slow and it was largely ignored. Not only that it will be a reboot/change, it also moves to the Eclipse Foundation which is a much better and more open developer community.

4) Java 9 and new enhancements

Java language is in version 9 now. Java 8 brought a lot of features, this version has even more.

Quick feature rundown -
Official doc from Oracle -

Java has a REPL now and a lot of cool functional programming features got added such as Closures and Lambda expressions.

5) JVM - Improved GC algorithms

Even though some might disagree that Java is a good choice for a language, the JVM on the other hand is perhaps the most stable cross platform run time as of today. In Java 7, we didn't have much choices regarding GC optimization and tuning. Java 8 brought G1 GC among others. Java 9 made G1GC as default as it was found to be much better than parallel GC for many use cases.

Apart from that, there are two other algorithms that are coming up. One is the ZGC for multi-terabyte heaps and the other is Shenandoah for low pause GC. We might see them sooner since JDK development is set to move faster now.

There is always a good GC algorithm that you can choose depending upon your use case.

6) More interesting projects lined up

There are many interesting projects as part of Open JDK, but two that caught my eye were Project valhalla and Project Amber. They collectively bring in Value types, local variable type inference, improved generics etc .,

This could change the way we use Java and has great impact on other languages in the JVM.

7) JVM languages

Features part of JVM gives a boost to languages that run top of it, since they don't have to do a lot syntactic sugar which means more work for the compiler.

Scala, Kotlin, Clojure , Eta , Groovy are some of the famous languages.

Of these Scala and Kotlin stand out. Some might even think that Kotlin might replace Scala(they are not comparable). More on that below.

Speculation & Opinions

This section I present some of my opinions which could be wrong. Feel free to disagree and discuss in the comments.

On Kotlin's future

Kotlin seems to be a wonderful language from the folks at Jetbrains. It has official support for Android in mobile development, Spring framework has Kotlin support. But the language at its core is more like syntactic sugar over Java. Currently it is much better than Java due to its advanced features, but considering that Java language by itself is coming up with many modern syntax and features, it could catch up. And beyond a point, the differences might be even negligible. This and also there is a lot less Kotlin developers when compared to Java.

This is exactly opposite of what is going on in the industry right now i.e Kotlin is gaining more popularity, but then again it is my opinion.

On choosing a language

Groovy seems to be the least popular. It was a good language but its activity is steadily on the decrease. If you were to choose a language I would consider the below points.

  • Java if you are an Object Oriented Programming shop.
  • Scala if you prefer Functional Programming(FP) + OOP.
  • Eta lang if you prefer purely functional and/or a Haskell enthusiast.
  • Clojure if you like dynamically typed FP languages.
  • Kotlin if you are into Android and you need something better than Java but not the one that requires a huge learning curve.(This might change as I suggested above)
  • Groovy is currently used as a scripting language.

Closing Notes

That's all I have for the updates. I have never been more interested and optimistic about Java and JVM as I am now. There is no better time to be a developer on the JVM platform.

P.S : Do point out any typos or if anything can be improved.

Thanks for reading.

Top comments (7)

prestongarno profile image

Java? Is it like a cheap version of JavaScript or something?

Somewhat refreshing to see a post on JVM;)

bmadusudanan profile image

Nope. Except the similarity in the names, they are very much different. Java is a general purpose programming language while Javascript was designed for the web, although Node JS is server side.

If you want to get started with Java then I would recommend

1) Head first Java to start with.
2) Effective Java for more advanced knowledge.

It is a general industry tendency that languages/platforms tend to stop being cool after some time. I guess it's more psychological rather than technical.

Java and JVM have withstood the test of time and continue to evolve. They were slow to change till now, but they have recognized that it is a problem and now they are making some very interesting changes.

prestongarno profile image

Oh, I was reusing the joke about confusing java with javascript🙃

Finished Concurrency in Practice a bit ago. Kinda fell in love with Kotlin recently - so yeah, anyways great read though!

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bmadusudanan profile image

Oh, I was reusing the joke about confusing java with javascript

Its been a while since people used that joke :D

Finished Concurrency in Practice a bit ago. Kinda fell in love with Kotlin recently - so yeah, anyways great read though!

Kotlin is the best choice for android at present. Interested to see how it performs in the area of web apps.

Btw, looks like kotlin/scala are going native with LLVM backends. Be sure to check them out too.

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prestongarno profile image

JVM is going native with LLVM too! Probably going to be a little longer than Kotlin but the new release schedule should help

jonahbron profile image

"Kotlin seems to be a wonderful language from the folks are Jetbrains"

Probably meant to be " Jetbrains".

Great article!

bmadusudanan profile image

Thanks for pointing out. Fixed.