Matt RaibleMatt Raible is a Java Champion and Developer Advocate at Okta.

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Over 10 years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Since then, I've authored books, had kids, traveled the world, found Trish and blogged about it all.

Developing Rich Web Service APIs with Java

This afternoon, I attended Ryan Heaton's talk on Developing Rich Web Service APIs with Java. I've always admired Ryan's work and what he's done with Enunciate. Below are my notes from his talk.

We've come a long way from the WS (SOAP) <-> EJB days. There are many tools that you can use to develop web services today. A Web Service is an API that's accessible over a network via platform-independent protocol. Historical examples of web services (in chronological order):

  • DCOM
  • RMI
  • SOAP
  • REST

A Web Service is composed of code wrapped with a container and it's bound to a contract. The table below shows the types of web services and their equivalent Java standard.


JAXB is the standard technology used to marshal XML <-> Java. It's annotation-driven, using @XmlRootElement, @XmlElement and @XmlAttribute to translate Java properties to XML.

JAX-WS is a Java standard, outputs classes as SOAP endpoints and it's annotation-driven. @WebService and @WebMethod are the main annotations. @WebMethod is only needed if you're trying to expose a non-public method.

JAX-RS is a Java standard used to expose REST services. Not surprisingly, it's annotation-driven. The class itself needs to be annotated with @Path. Methods are annotated with @GET, @PUT, @POST or @DELETE. If you need to pass in a parameter to a method, you can add a path parameter like the following:

public Person readPerson(@PathParam("id") String id);

To specify the possible mime-type outputs of a method, you can use the @Produces annotation. For example:

@Produces({"application/xml", "application/json"})

You can also do this for input methods with the @Consumes annotation.

For JSON, there's no Java standard. However, there's a number of libraries available, including Jackson, Jettison, GSON, XStream. Personally, I've used Jackson and highly recommend it.

The major players in exposing Java code as JAX-WS and JAX-RS services are Oracle, Spring and JBoss. Oracle (formerly Sun) has implemented the JAX-WS reference implementation and it's called Metro (a.k.a. JAX-WS RI). For JAX-RS, Oracle has the Jersey project. For Spring, the JAX-WS and JAX-RS implementation is Apache CXF. JBoss has JBoss-WS and RESTEasy.

There's also a number of custom containers for exposing web services. For example, AMF (implementations: BlazeDS, GraniteDS), GWT-RPC (GWT), JSON-PRC (DWR), Atom (Abdera), OpenSocial (Shindig).

The contract is a very important part of a web service API. It's composed of an Interface Definition Language (WSDL, WADL JSON Schema), Developer Docs (text, context, preconditions, restrictions), example code and client libraries.

Enunciate allows you to create your contract for your web services. It's a build-time WS Development tool. It generates developer documentation and client-side libraries (for Java, C/C++, Objective C, ActionScript and Ruby). It leverages existing specs (JAX-*) and fails fast at compile time.

From there, Ryan gave us a demo of Enunciate and how it could easily create an API website based on JAX-RS annotations.

I liked Ryan's talk and I'm definitely a fan of Enunciate. While I didn't learn anything new, I think there's a lot of Java developers that don't know about the various standards and how easy it is to develop web services. Hopefully by taking notes from Ryan's talk, I'll get the word out a bit more and make more folks aware of Enunciate. On a related note, Sonatype has a good post on how they documented the Nexus API with Enunciate.

Posted in Java at Mar 18 2010, 05:51:00 PM MDT 1 Comment

C++, Java and .NET: Lessons Learned from the Internet Age

Today at TSSJS, I attended Cameron Purdy's keynote titled C++, Java and .NET: Lessons learned from the Internet Age, and What it means for the Cloud and Emerging Languages.

His talk was a retrospective of the trade-offs compared to C++ illustrated by Java, C# and other VM-based programming languages with Garbage-Collection, scripting languages simultaneously thrived, and what this teaches us about the applicability of technology to emerging challenges and environments such as cloud computing. Why did Java become so successful? Some folks say it was marketed better, but it was Sun - so we know that could've have been possible.

Cameron is the VP of Development for Oracle Fusion Middleware, responsible for the Coherence Data Grid product which has Java, C# and C++ versions. Data Grids are RAID for servers. It provides a reliable data tier with a single, consistent view of data and enabled dynamic data capacity including fault tolerance and load balancing. The servers cooperate together and act as an organism to manage their information.

Java when it first came out very much looked like evolution. From a C++ programmers perspective, Java was bloated.

Below are Cameron's Top 10 Reasons Why Java has been able to supplant C++. This started happening around 1996-97. Warning to Language Fanbois: Yes, I know there are 3rd party GC implementations that fix some of these issues.

10. Automated Garbage Collection: A significant portion of C++ code is dedicated to memory management. This meant faster time to market and lower bug count.

9. The Build Process: C++ builds are slow and complicated. Personal example: 20 hour full build in C++ compared to 7 minutes in Java.

8. Simplicity of Source Code and Artifacts: C++ splits source into header and implementation files. Artifacts are compiler-specific, but there are many of them. With Java, there's just one .java and just one .class.

7. Binary Standard: In addition to being loadable as a class by a JVM, a Java classfile can be used to compile against. Java defers platform-specific stuff to the runtime.

6. Dynamic Linking: No standard way to dynamically link classes in C++.

5. Portability: Java is portable with very little effort; C++ is portable in theory, but in practice you have to build another language (#ifdef'd types, etc.) on top of it. C++ has significant differences from vendor to vendor. Some unnamed major vendors have horrid support for the C++ standard, particularly templates.

4. Standard Type System: Java has specified, portable primitive types. C++ still has a hard time defining what a String is. Multi-threading? You must be joking. STL? Maybe some day. Basically nothing is standard!

3. Reflection: Full runtime capability to look at the runtime. C++ has optional RTTI, but no reflection. Enables extremely powerful generic frameworks. It gives you the ability to learn about, access and manipulate any object.

2. Performance: GC can make memory management much more efficient (slab allocators, escape analysis). This is because of modern architectures and the fact that Java can take advantage of multiple threads. Thread safe smart pointers in C++ are 3x slower than Java references. Hotspot can do massive inlining, which is very important for dealing with layers of virtual invocation.

1. Safety: Elimination of pointers (arbitrary memory access, ability to easily crash the process). With Java, there's no buffer overruns; code and data cannot be accidentally missed.

Honorable Mention: C++ Templates. Next time someone complains about Java Generics, make them read C++ Templates. They're fugly and extremely bloated.

The Top 10 list of advantages C++ has over Java:

10. Startup Time: The graph of initially loaded class in Java is pretty large. Conclusion: Not good for "instant" and short-running processes.

9. Memory Footprint: Java uses significantly more memory than C++, particularly for "small" applications.

8. Full GC Pauses: Sooner or later, there is a part of GC that can't be run in the background and can't be avoided. This causes havoc for distributed processes and things like real-time financial systems.

7. No Deterministic Destruction: No support for RAII. Cannot count on finalizers. There's not even a "using" construct in Java.

6. Barriers to Native Integration: Operating Systems are built in C/C++. APIs are typically in C.

And that's all Cameron could come up with. Turns out it was only a top 5 list.

So why did the shift from C++ to Java and C# happen? Because Shift Happens. First of all, Al Gore built this internet thing and the World Wide Web. We built a couple browsers with C++, but then we were done. Oh wait, we needed a web server too, so we built Apache. What about the other things? The things that run in the browser? There was no way we were going to run C++ in the browser b/c it was too unsafe. All the advantages that C++ had over Java didn't matter on the web. Startup time wasn't a concern when we left our app server running for months. Memory wasn't an issue because we had GB of RAM on our machines.

What about scripting languages? All the areas where C++ might have an advantage, scripting languages jumped in. They offered simplicity and approachability (hooks up to database, manages state on behalf of the user, produces HTML), rapid application development (no OO architectural requirements, save and refresh).

So what about cloud computing? Can we take what we learned from Java and C++ and apply them to what we see coming down the pipe now with cloud computing? What are we missing? What are the advantages that Java would be missing in a cloud environment?

The things missing from the VM: modularity, lifecycle and isolation. Lower memory footprint and predictable GC pauses. Things missing from the platform: distributed system as a system, provisioning and metering, cloud operating systems APIs, persistence (including key/value) and Map/Reduce-style processing. Finally, the application definition is missing packaging, resource declaration and security in a shared environment.

What's changed in the world since Java was introduced? Hardware virtualization, stateful grid infrastructure and capacity on demand ISPs (EC2). What's coming in Java? Modularization, NIO pluggable file systems, JVM Bare Metal and Virtual Editions. Conclusion: Java either steps up or something else will.

This was an enjoyable talk to listen to and I very much enjoyed Cameron's humor and slide pictures that supported it. As Dusty said, Cameron has a pretty clear picture of what the Java Roadmap should look like. Let's hope Oracle is listening.

Posted in Java at Mar 18 2010, 01:36:28 PM MDT 4 Comments

Highly Interactive Software with Java and Flex

This morning at TSSJS, I attended James Ward's talk about Highly Interactive Software with Java and Flex. Below are my notes from his talk.

Application have moved from mainframes (hard to deploy, limited clients) to client/server (hard to deploy, full client capabilities) to web applications (easy to deploy, limited clients) to rich internet applications (easy to deploy, full client capabilities).

Shortly after showing a diagram of how applications have changed, James showed a demo of a sample Flex app for an automobile insurance company. It was very visually appealing, kinda like using an iPhone app. It was a multi-form application that slides right-to-left as you progress through the wizard. It also allowed you to interact with a picture of your car (to indicate where the damage happened) and a map (to indicate how the accident happened). Both of these interactive dialogs still performed data entry, they just did it in more of a visual way.

Adobe's developer technology for building RIAs is Flex. There's two different languages in Flex: ActionScript and MXML. ActionScript was originally based on JavaScript, but now (in ActionScript 3) uses features from Java and C#. On top of ActionScript is MXML. It's a declarative language, but unlike JSP taglibs. All you can do with MXML is instantiate objects and set properties. It's merely a convenience language, but also allows tooling. The open source SDK compiler takes Flex files and compiles it into a *.swf file. This file can then be executed using the Flash Player (in browser) or Air (desktop).

The reason Adobe developed two different runtimes was because they didn't want to bloat the Flash Player. Once the applications are running client-side, the application talks to the web server. Protocols that can be used for communication: SOAP, HTTP/S, AMF/S and RTMP/S. The web server can be composed of REST or SOAP Web Services, as well as BlazeDS or LC Data Services to talk directly to Java classes.

To see all the possible Flex components, see Tour de Flex. It contains a number of components: core components, data access controls, AIR capabilities, cloud APIs, data visualization. The IBM ILOG Elixir real-time dashboard is particularly interesting, as is Doug McCune's Physics Form.

Next James showed us some code. He used Flex Builder to create a new Flex project with BlazeDS. The backend for this application was a JSP page that talks to a database and displays the results in XML. In the main .mxml file, he used <s:HTTPService> with a URL pointing to the URI of the JSP. Then he added an <mx:DataGrid> and the data binding feature of Flex. To do this, he added dataProvider="{srv.lastResult.items.item}" to the DataGrid tag, where "srv" is the id of the HTTPService. Then he added a Button with click="srv.send()" and set the layout to VerticalLayout. This was a simple demo to show how to hook in a backend with XML.

To show that Flex can interact with more than XML over HTTP, James wrote a SOAP service and changed <s:HTTPService> to <s:WebService> and changed the "url" attribute to "wsdl" (and adjusted the value as appropriate). Then rather than using {srv.lastResult.*}, he had to bind to a particular method and change it to {srv.getElements.lastResults}. The Button's click value also had to change to "srv.getElements(0, 2000)" (since the method takes 2 parameters).

After doing coding in Flex Builder, James switched to his Census to compare server-execution times. In the first example (Flash XML AS), most of the time was spent gzipping the 1MB XML file, but the transfer time is reduced because of this. The server execution time is around 800ms. Compare this to the Flex AMF3 example where the server execution time is 49ms. This is because the AMF (binary) protocol streamlines the data and doesn't include repeated metadata.

To integrate BlazeDS in your project, you add the dependencies and then map the MessageBrokerServlet in your web.xml. Then you use a services-config.xml to define the protocol and remoting-config.xml to define what Java classes to export as services. To use this in the Flex aplication, James changed <s:WebService> to <s:RemoteObject>. He changed the "wsdl" attribute to "endpoint" and added a "destination" attribute to specify the name of the aliased Java class to talk to. Next, James ran the demo and showed that he could change the number of rows from 2,000 to 20,000 and the load time was still much, much faster than the XML and SOAP versions.

There's also a Spring BlazeDS Integration project that allows you to simply annotate beans to expose them as AMF services.

BlazeDS also includes a messaging service that you can use to create publishers and subscribers. The default channels in BlazeDS uses HTTP Streaming and HTTP Long Polling (comet), but it can be configurable (e.g. to use JMS). There's also an Adobe commercial product that keeps a connection open using NIO on the server and has a binary protocol. This is useful for folks that need more real-time data in their applications (e.g. trading floors).

I thought this was a really good talk by James. It had some really cool visual demos and the demo was interesting in showing how easy it was to switch between different web services and protocols. This afternoon, I'll be duking it out with James at the Flex vs. GWT Smackdown. If you have deficiencies of Flex you'd like me to share during that talk, please let me know.

Posted in Java at Mar 18 2010, 12:29:26 PM MDT 4 Comments