alive and well

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Java is alive and well in federal IT

Mark Twain famously stated, “The report of my death was an exaggeration” -- a quote that can also apply to the Java programming language. Java’s impending death has been discussed, blogged about and ruminated on for many of its two-plus decades of existence. Yet not only has it persevered, one could say it’s thriving. And that’s good news for federal agencies.

Agencies often take IT cues from enterprise companies. Java has been used by Twitter developers to rewrite parts of the social media platform because the programming language can provide more throughput. At Google, Java is one of the five main languages that are promoted as a standard internally.

In fact, I believe that Java is as popular as ever. Consider that Tiobe, a software quality assessment company, shows Java as the No. 1 programming language ahead of C, the next-highest-ranked language. According to RedMonk, which analyzes GitHub and StackOverflow traffic, Java was the No. 2 language behind JavaScript. Finally, in StackOverflow’s most recent annual survey, Java was listed as the third most popular language behind JavaScript and SQL.

Evidence of life via the Java virtual machine

The positive impact that Java is having can be seen in the work that’s being done with the Java virtual machine, which interprets compiled Java binary code so that it can perform a Java program's instructions. There’s a robust developer community that’s contributing, developing and innovating with and upon the JVM.

The JVM is perhaps most famously delivered by Oracle, but it is also delivered by other vendors including IBM and Azul Systems. Most importantly, an open source version of the JVM is delivered by the OpenJDK project. The many different creators involved in the JVM, and their different forms of delivery, can help prevent vendor lock in. Many companies contribute to the OpenJDK project, some of which  support the use of OpenJDK on their operating systems and other solutions.

Java is creating opportunities for agencies

We’re seeing a commitment to Java in the federal IT space, where a number of Java Enterprise Edition application servers have been purchased and are running. Many government agencies are using free and self- or community-supported offerings -- and their code bases are growing.

The reasons for Java's popularity are readily apparent. For instance, it is designed to be easy to use and learn, and Java is still being taught in colleges around the country. It is also platform independent, so it can run on many different systems. Finally, it's been around more than 20 years, which has created a wide and deep Java developer talent pool that can make it easier to find skilled staff.

All of these factors can contribute to what government agencies are trying to achieve: faster, more flexible and efficient development processes.

The federal government’s dependence on Java can be seen in the number of developer positions open in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas. The good news is that Java developers should be plentiful.

I anticipate that Java will be present in government technology for a long time, which is  a comforting thought. Despite the ever-changing pace of technology, it’s wonderful to be able to count on an old and well-liked friend like Java.

About the Author

Jim Tyrrell is a principal JBoss solutions architect, Public Sector, Red Hat.

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