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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

JavaOne 2007 Day 1 - JRuby, Appistry, Layer7, SF "outsourcing", and shots at the Tangosol party

Last year Sun latched on to JRuby and hired the developers that work on the project mostly because of the astuteness of Tim Bray. It's been amazing to watch this project grow from relative obscurity to headliner in such a short amount of time. Yesterday as I made my way through the halls at Moscone to attend the JRuby talk I was thinking to myself "It shouldn't be too bad finding a seat here, I mean this is "Java" one, not ruby or jruby one". While it wasn't difficult to find a seat I was surprised when I walked through the doors of Gateway 104 to find a large room that was full for this talk. A quick estimate put it somewhere in the neighborhood of at least 1,000 people which is way more than I would've thought going in.

The talk itself was really very introductory. Charles and Tom assumed no prior ruby knowledge and even asked the question "Who here doesn't know what ruby is?" As I thought to myself "there's no way... ", I looked around and saw at least 5-6 hands raised in just my visible radius. I didn't stand up to see the aggregate total of folks who wandered in seemingly off the street with no idea of what they were attending. Later in the afternoon I mentioned this to Hani and we were theorizing about how that could happen. We proposed various reasons as to how someone could be attending a talk about a different programming language and yet have zero idea of that fact.

Were they plants in the audience by Sun? Charles' and Tom's relatives? Though I didn't see anyone with a "We're Nutter about you Charles" sign or anything like that. Though I did see one poor soul holding up a "Vote for Sanjaya" sign. I'm pretty sure he had his hand raised during the "Does anyone not know what ruby is?" question. We finally settled on the notion that those people had lost a bet. "OK if you don't get her number you have to go to the JRuby talk."

Charles and Tom did a great job breaking down the features in ruby that would be new to java developers and what makes them interesting, modules, blocks, duck typing, etc. They went over rails and its pieces, calling ActiveRecord an "ORM on steroids", which I can't say I agree with. I'd call EJB3 or Hibernate or Kodo an ORM on steroids. ActiveRecord is just an ORM.

I'm really pleased with the great lengths the JRuby team has gone to make it easy to get working. Simply download the package and run jruby from the command line and pass it your ruby script.

During the talk they provided a simple example of a JRuby script that was something like the following:
require 'java'

a = java.util.ArrayList.new
a << 'all your code belong to jruby'
a.each do |el|
puts el

Pretty neat stuff. As a ruby developer that's as seamless as one could expect, and for java developers it's great insurance that they don't have to leave their world behind. While I didn't really have a look at perf on the simple example above appeared to be on par with the regular ruby VM.

During the presentation they created a sample rails app and demonstrated migrations and scaffolding. First they showed the sample app running using webrick, and then they created a WAR file and deployed the same app to glassfish. Unfortunately they only showed the app load once and didn't actually use the app at all as I would've liked to see if there was any noticeable performance change even for a single user in development mode, but still an impressive nonetheless.

They demonstrated portions of the "Goldspike" project. This is the project that contains the tools required to build a WAR file containing your rails app and all dependent gems. Basically you create a ruby file that describes your dependencies and you run the tool over your app and it builds a deployable WAR file that you just drop into glassfish, tomcat, etc.

The only caveats that I can see right now are probably still performance and usage of native libraries, like RMagik. Charles indicated that you'd run into problems with such a library and that there are plans to port them.

Roaming around the pavilion floor I had a chat with the guys over at Appistry about their application "fabric". In a nutshell it's a deployment framework that allows you to scale your applications while you kick back and work on learning rails/grails/sails/snails or level your rogue in WoW. I also stopped by and spoke with Layer 7 Technologies about their XML appliance. I have to admit before I went over and talked with them I didn't think I'd find any of it interesting because I just lumped it in as part of the WS deathstar debacle but they were really pragmatic and intelligent guys. They clearly position their appliance as something for the enterprise and for folks that have fairly complex systems of web services that they need to secure and have a single point of management. Their product basically serves as an entry point and central managing system for an enterprise's services.

After the day's activities I met up with some friends over on the Embarcadero for dinner. The conversation was lively, geeky, and engaging as always. One topic of note was the revelation of companies in London that look to outsource their development work to San Francisco because of how "cheap" it is compared to hiring developers in London. I sure hope they don't forget to account for the language barrier in their cost analysis ;-)

After dinner we strolled over to the Tangosol party where there was an open bar. Congrats Cam and his team for a well deserved exit and thanks for the great party! Wednesday night is the blogger party at Thirsty Bear and the Google party. I'm on my way to a session to be named right now. Hopefully it'll be about something completely foreign to me so that someone else can shake their head in disbelief at my ignorance.

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