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What is the future of Java in today’s enterprise?

Picture of Artur Skowroński, Head of Java/Kotlin Space

Artur Skowroński

Head of Java/Kotlin Space

18 minutes read

Java and its ecosystem are critical to the success of many modern businesses. It is a versatile language with strong support for many use cases and powerful new features to tackle demanding situations. But you may be asking yourself: What is the future of Java?

Although Java has been a key player in software development since 1999, some have questioned its future. Companies that have invested a lot in Java are worried because they don’t know what will happen next. The idea of replacing Java and its associated components presents a big challenge.

It will come as a relief to learn that today’s Java has many advantages for the modern digital enterprise. This is especially true with the upcoming release of Java 21. Yet, it’s well worth considering the current situation before finalizing your technology strategy. This article will clear up doubts and show how Java meets the needs of enterprise businesses now and in the future. Organizations planning ahead will see the value of adaptable, efficient and relevant technology.

The future of Java: Java misconceptions in today’s enterprise

Due to early performance issues and a verbose coding style, Java was perceived as a slow and outdated language. The infrequent updates only added to the notion that Java was not ready to meet today’s requirements.

Yet, it is worth delving into these misconceptions and learning how Java has evolved into a fully modern technology.

Ways Java performance has overcome misconceptions

Java applications have been criticized for their longer startup times and slower performance than compiled languages. This is due to the nature of the JVM – as an interpreter of Java bytecode – which often leads to a lag in startup time and performance.

Currently, two initiatives are accelerating the startup time of Java applications:

  • GraalVM speeds up startups, boosts runtime performance, and lowers memory usage of applications based on JVM. Therefore, it raises the appeal of Java for high-performance computing with ahead-of-time (AOT) compilation. 
  • Project Leyden aims to solve the startup time issue by introducing a consistent approach for static images in the Java platform. These static images begin quicker and use less memory, similar to the languages that compile to machine code.

Additionally, the two projects below employ snapshots to boost startup times. Snapshots allow Java programs to remember where they left off, which makes them start up faster:

  • Efforts like Project CraC also suggest adding checkpoint/restore capabilities to the JVM. Instead of beginning all over again, the program continues from where it stopped previously.
  • Cloud computing platforms such as AWS Lambda’s Snap Start have improved the startup times of Java applications in the cloud by launching Lambda functions from a snapshot of the application.

How today’s Java supports efficient concurrency

Java’s thread-based model was complex and less efficient for concurrent programming. This was especially noticeable compared to the simpler, more efficient models offered by languages like Go.

Project Loom is a new response to the old need for better handling of many tasks simultaneously. It introduces Virtual Threads (these are like threads but lighter), looked after by the JVM. This makes concurrency programming easier and more effective. With this approach, the system can manage lots of tasks happening at the same time, even reaching millions.

Ways modern Java simplifies deployment complexity

Java’s deployment has historically been more complex than languages with static linking support. Static linking is when all dependencies are compiled into one executable for easy portability.

Using the jlink tool and GraalVM‘s native image feature has simplified Java’s deployment process. These allow the creation of a minimal set of runtime images, standalone executables and all the necessary dependencies.

Modern Java’s efficient garbage collection

Java’s garbage collection, while automatic, has historically been prone to “stop-the-world” pauses, making it an unsuitable platform for interactive systems (such as game development) and causing problems for systems that require stable, low latency.

New garbage collectors, such as Shenandoah and ZGC, have been introduced in Java, which aim to reduce pauses by performing most of their garbage collecting work concurrently with Java threads.

Java’s improved memory-efficiency

Java applications traditionally consume more memory due to several factors, including the fact that the garbage collector itself requires memory to operate (which adds to the overall memory consumption) and the overhead of Java objects.

Projects like Lilliput and Valhalla aim to reduce the memory overhead of Java objects and introduce value types, making Java applications more memory-efficient.

How Java easily interfaces with native code

Java’s process for interfacing with native code was less straightforward than some languages, creating potential difficulties when calling native code from Java or working with native data.

Project Panama aims to improve the way Java works with native code, making it easier and safer to call foreign functions and work with native data in Java.

Despite past perceptions, modern Java has overcome its limitations and developed into a scalable and efficient language for current development needs. Java is now a robust and future-ready option for enterprises.

Let’s explore the advantages of using Java as your primary language.

The future of Java: using Java as your primary language

From its robustness and scalability to its mature ecosystem and long-term support, Java proves to be a dependable choice. But what are Java’s most recent capabilities, and what kind of modern solutions do they enable?

With Java’s new capabilities, many projects you may have found challenging are now much easier to deliver. Some notable examples include:

Real-time data processing applications

Java is a great option for handling real-time data processing applications because of the enhanced garbage collection offered by Shenandoah and ZGC and the improved support for concurrency provided by Project Loom. In the past, Java was not deemed suitable for managing real time systems (RTS) and high-frequency trading (HFT) due to the garbage collector’s “stop-the-world” pauses. These interruptions would halt all application threads while memory cleanup was performed, which could cause unacceptable delays in time-critical applications.

Examples of real-time data processing

Java’s evolution has led to excellence in real-time data processing. This transformation empowers compute-intensive solutions in various domains, such as:

  • High-frequency trading platforms: These programs have to process large amounts of data in real-time, where delays of even a few milliseconds can affect profits.
  • Real-time analytics: Real-time analysis systems have a range of uses in various sectors, such as detecting unusual events in real time, continuously tracking data, and making informed decisions based on data. Examples in this case are identifying fraud in financial transactions or keeping track of health metrics in health-related systems.
  • Telecom networks: Telecommunication companies utilize Java’s improved performance and concurrency features to observe and regulate data traffic in real time.

Lightweight microservices and serverless functions

Usually, Java’s extended startup times and more significant memory usage make it less apt for microservices or serverless tasks when compared to languages such as Go or Python. By introducing Coordinated Restore at Checkpoint (Project CRaC), GraalVM’s native image, and Virtual Threads through Project Loom, Java can now compete in this area by delivering light, fast-starting services.

Lightweight microservices and serverless examples

  • E-commerce platforms’ microservices: Microservices are capable of performing distinct tasks autonomously, for instance, inventory management, payment processing, and user authentication. Speedy startup times and reduced memory usage allow these services to efficiently scale up in response to demand.
  • Serverless: Functions in a serverless architecture respond to specific events like image resizing triggered by user uploads.

High-performance scientific computing

Because of the overhead of the JVM and the lack of value types, Java wasn’t always the best solution for high-performance scientific computing tasks that require efficient CPU and memory usage. 

Adding value types, generic specialization in Project Valhalla, and the support of Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) operations in the Vector API could improve efficiency and performance for complex computational tasks. This positions Java well to deliver solutions for such tasks.

High-performance scientific computing examples

  • Machine learning: Project Valhalla can make machine learning models more efficient by optimizing CPU and memory usage. It is beneficial for handling large amounts of data and complex computations.
  • Scientific projects: For climate studies and to process genomic data, powerful computers and efficient memory management are needed. This helps to accurately model and detect patterns.
  • High-resolution imaging: Medical or satellite imaging requires fast storage and processing power to work with and analyze high-resolution images.

Native & interoperability-intensive applications

If an application needs to work closely with native libraries, it often uses languages like C++ or Rust. Project Panama aims to make Java a plausible option for such situations by enhancing the safety, simplicity, and efficiency of interaction with native code.

Examples of native & interoperability-intensive applications

  • Machine learning libraries: Java can be a better choice for creating or working with machine learning libraries. These libraries are often written in languages like C++, but Java offers better interoperability. 
  • Multimedia processing libraries: Apps that rely on communication with native multimedia libraries, which are used for encoding or decoding audio and video, would benefit greatly from the advancements in Project Panama.
  • Game development: Game developers can use Java more efficiently with enhanced native code interfaces for creating games that make efficient use of native graphics or physics libraries.
  • Database systems: Improving database systems for efficiency, security, and performance is easier with the updated Java-native interfaces from Panama. This API enables quick data processing using SIMD and the memory enhancements from Project Valhalla, which operate seamlessly with Java.
  • Search indexes: The use of Panama and SIMD operations boosts the performance of applications that work with native search indexing libraries. This results in more efficient indexing and retrieval of data.

IoT and edge computing

Java is now a practical option for IoT and edge computing applications facing resource limitations. This is because jlink and GraalVM have enhanced their capabilities to create minimal runtime images. At the same time, GraalVM, Valhalla and Lilliput have improved startup times and memory usage.

IoT and edge computing examples

Java can now handle resource limitations effectively. This includes IoT and edge computing applications, such as:

  • Smart home devices: IoT devices, including smart thermostats, smart lights, and security systems, can benefit from Java’s advanced memory and resource management capabilities, resulting in more efficient devices.
  • Edge computing for self-driving cars: Autonomous vehicles require edge computing to efficiently process data locally. Java’s improvements make it a suitable option for such uses.
  • Industrial Internet of Things (IoT): Factory machinery and systems connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), such as predictive maintenance systems, can benefit from Java’s improved memory and resource management.

Although the foundation of Java is its programming language, let’s take a moment to look into Java’s extensive development ecosystem.

The proven benefits of choosing the Java ecosystem

Businesses that rely on Java for their software solutions benefit significantly from the Java ecosystem’s capabilities, which extends the value of Java beyond measure.

The Java ecosystem provides:

  • Extensive Libraries and Frameworks: The ecosystem offers a wide range of pre-built libraries and frameworks that speed up development and guarantee consistent quality. This speeds up the development process and minimizes the need for reinventing the wheel.
  • Expandability and Compatibility: Java’s ecosystem encourages expandability, enabling companies to expand their applications as demands increase. Moreover, the compatibility of Java’s “write once, run anywhere” feature ensures that applications developed using this ecosystem can be effortlessly deployed across multiple platforms without substantial modifications.
  • Powerful Tools: This ecosystem provides a broad range of robust development tools, build systems, and IDEs that enhance productivity, facilitate efficient collaboration and support advanced software development procedures.
  • Supportive Community: Java’s vibrant developer community provides a wealth of knowledge, forums, tutorials, and open-source resources. This network provides support to businesses to overcome challenges and remain up-to-date with the latest developments.
  • Long-lasting and Continuous: The tried and tested Java ecosystem is well-established, evolving continuously to meet modern requirements. This gives businesses confidence that their investments will stay relevant and flexible in the long term.
  • Safety and Stability: The Java community prioritizes security by regularly updating and patching, which is crucial to preserve application integrity and secure sensitive data. Maintaining application integrity and keeping sensitive data safe largely depend on regular security updates and patches.

The Java ecosystem allows organizations to create future-proof, competitive solutions whilst gaining advantages from an active developer community and keeping up with the latest innovations.

Java for the long-term

Nowadays, Java and its ecosystem make it easier to embrace new approaches to enterprise software solutions, such as:

  • Cloud-native development Leveraging Java’s support for cloud-native practices, developers can build scalable and efficient applications optimized for cloud environments.
  • Microservices architecture Java facilitates the creation of modular and loosely coupled services, promoting easier maintenance and scalability.
  • Serverless computing With Java, developers can adopt serverless architectures and focus on code without managing the underlying infrastructure, resulting in cost savings and increased flexibility.
  • Reactive programming Java’s support for reactive paradigms enables developers to build responsive and resilient systems that effectively handle asynchronous events.
  • Machine learning and AI integration Java’s extensive ecosystem includes libraries and frameworks for machine learning and AI, enabling seamless integration of these technologies into enterprise solutions.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) development Java’s platform independence and lightweight frameworks make it ideal for developing IoT applications that efficiently connect and manage smart devices.
  • Continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) Java’s build automation tools such as Maven and Gradle enable smooth CI/CD workflows, streamlining development and deployment processes.
  • Modularisation Java’s modular system (Jigsaw) simplifies software development, enabling better code organization and easier maintenance of large projects.
  • Enhanced security Java’s continuous security updates and robust ecosystem help developers build secure and compliant enterprise solutions.

By facilitating these approaches, Java supports software engineering teams in delivering innovative and future-proof business solutions.

Major cloud providers invest in Java

In addition, major public cloud providers are investing in Java technology. These providers include giants of the tech industry, such as:

Cloud providers supporting Java for their public cloud services is a sign of it being a secure long-term investment.

To clarify any remaining confusion, let us address some key questions regarding the relevance of Java.

Is Java still relevant for enterprise software development?

Java is still highly relevant for enterprise software development. Despite rumors of its obsolescence, Java has evolved into a robust and adaptable language for modern enterprise needs. Its continuous updates, performance improvements, and strong ecosystem contribute to its ongoing relevance.

What factors make Java worth considering for modern enterprise software projects?

Java’s long-standing presence in the industry is a testament to its stability and reliability. Its vast libraries, frameworks and tools provide developers with a rich ecosystem to build scalable and secure enterprise solutions. Additionally, Java’s cross-platform compatibility and extensive community support make it an attractive choice for tackling diverse enterprise challenges.

How has Java evolved to address the changing needs of enterprise software development?

Java has undergone significant advancements to address contemporary enterprise demands. New features like Project Loom’s Virtual Threads and improvements in garbage collection, startup times, and memory efficiency have made Java more suitable for modern microservices, real-time processing, and resource-constrained environments. These changes reflect Java’s adaptability to current development trends.

What are the key characteristics of modern enterprise solutions, and how does Java align with these characteristics in contemporary enterprise environments?

Modern enterprise solutions require scalability, agility, security, and the ability to integrate with diverse technologies. Java aligns well with these characteristics through its mature ecosystem, support for microservices architecture, enhanced security features, and compatibility with cloud-native practices. Its continued relevance stems from its capacity to meet the evolving needs of today’s enterprise environments.

What is the future of Java: It is an investment for the future

In conclusion, Java and its ecosystem continue to be pivotal for contemporary business success. Java remains the first choice for creating enterprise applications, despite the availability of other frameworks.

So, what’s crucial to understand about Java’s role in the enterprise landscape now and in the future?

  1. Ecosystem benefits: Embracing Java’s ecosystem has benefits like skilled developers, scalable solutions, and seamless technology integration.
  2. Future readiness: Java’s mature ecosystem prepares your business for future changes while following standards and best practices.
  3. Innovation: Java enables cloud-native, microservices, serverless computing, AI integration, IoT, etc., embracing modern approaches.
  4. Cloud support: Major cloud providers’ strong support for Java underscores its relevance and commitment to enterprises like yours.
  5. Continuous evolution: Java’s updates, security enhancements, and adaptability fortify its robustness and flexibility.
  6. Enterprise dominance: Despite competition, Java’s dominance in enterprise development ensures long-term success and innovation.

Organizations appreciate Java’s stability. It lets them focus on strategic growth and innovation and avoid disruptions.

If you like this article, we recommend reading the following:

Cloud Migration: Take Your Business to the Next Level

How to improve agility: Make your team adaptable and agile again

How gradual engineering improvements deliver value and save costs

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