Rethinking Enterprise Java

JBoss AS 7 has been out for a week or so – probably not enough time for opinions to be formed but the feedback I’ve seen so far has been overwhelmingly positive. But that isn’t the subject of this post.

You probably didn’t see Red Hat’s press release as those things are typically only read by the press so I wanted to draw to you attention a single paragraph :

“JBoss Application Server 7 represents a major milestone in the evolution of Java application servers from complex and monolithic to more lightweight, modular and agile. This release will enable developers to re-think how they develop and deploy enterprise Java applications.”

I wrote that and I meant it. Over the last 5 years there has been a significant difference between the Java EE servers like JBoss, Weblogic and Websphere and Apache Tomcat. Tomcat has been the poster-child for the lightweight container movement (but we shouldn’t forget Jetty and Resin – both very capable servers) and has established itself as probably the most popular Java run-time.

But I think we’re at the point where there is no-longer a lightweight division between Java EE servers and Tomcat (and other Web Containers) – some good blog posts here and here that discuss typical developer requirements like startup time and deployment speed (make sure you read the comments). When we’re at the the point where we’re discussing sub-second differences between startup or deployment times then I think we have convergence. I think we’re at a point where you can no longer paint Java EE servers into the big, slow and heavy corner and Tomcat into the lean and fast corner.

Developers have more choice today than ever before – they can choose a lightweight container but no longer have to make a tradeoff between footprint and features. Or start with a basic server like Tomcat and incrementally build a full featured application server from the ground up as more features like caching, persistence, transactions, messaging, view layer are required.

OK before the Glassfish fanboys chime in – yes Glassfish did a great job of addressing light-weight needs for Java EE some time ago but by any available measure Glassfish still doesn’t represent a mainstream choice like Tomcat, JBoss, Weblogic or Websphere.

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