I’m not well-versed in the nuances of NASCAR racing and don’t understand the spectacle very well so when I say this, please take it with a grain of salt. The whole Java versus .NET thing seems to me like a NASCAR race, one car edging ahead of the other and then again giving up ground to the competitor… on and on again for countless monotonous laps. I am in the process of re-immersing myself in the newer releases of Java. It has been years since I dealt with Java on a regular basis – the 1.1 through 1.4 days. This week, I had the chance to see a lightweight EJB 3 container in action, working through Oracle’s slick new IDE with integrated Java Server Faces (JSF) and Object Relational Mapping tool (Toplink, in this case) support. Suffice it to say that I was floored with the progress the Java community had made away from the monolithic J2EE / EJB 2.1 towards the lightweight model espoused by frameworks such as Spring. Just when it appeared that the Java car was pulling ahead ready to steal the race, along comes the announcement of the Community Technology Preview of ADO.NET vNext. NASCAR fans, we’ve got ourselves a race again. Below I offer a preview of some of the aforementioned technologies:
- Java Server Faces (JSF) – Formally, the implementation of the JSF specification developed under JSR 127 and JSR 252. For those from the .NET world, this is tantamount to custom Web controls. The newer UI’s allow you to drag and drop JSF components onto a pallet and wire up event-based handling to build your user interface layer. As with the newer .NET components, AJAX capabilities are being built into a lot of these components. The Wikipedia writeup for JSF has links to several popular JSF toolkits, many of which offer online demonstrations or reference applications.
- Object Relational Mapping Support – Along with EJB 3 came the Java Persistence API, which codifies various persistence frameworks into a single API. This includes support for new Java 1.5 language features, such as annotations, which are pure Java metadata descriptors that can be used to interact with the persistence framework (e.g. Hibernate) being used. In addition, XML mapping descriptors continue to receive support. Particularly interesting to me was not the support for ORM, which has been an item in the Java developer’s toolbox for years, but the rich integration of the API support in some of the IDEs. I’ve included a screenshot from Oracle’s JBuilder that illustrate the steps in creating Entity Beans from existing database tables. In particular, note the ability to select the type of collection to be used as well as to annotate the collections as either eager or lazy loaded (see Fowler Lazy Load pattern from P of EAA)
- ADO.NET vNext – This version of ADO.NET, slated to come out after the not-yet-released ADO.NET v3.0, is revolutionary in the minds of those at Microsoft. It’s great to hear the folks at Microsoft talk about impedance mismatch as if they had just discovered it. “With the new version of ADO.NET and LINQ and the powerful capabilities of the Entity Framework …” Y-A-W-N. C’mon guys, you’re just as far behind in the ORM world as the Java community was in the visual design and UI component world 5 years ago. Time to hit the gas and at least catch up. What should be really interesting is to see just how good the IDE support is for their Entity Framework. As you can see from the Oracle screenshot, Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do.