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Looking at 2010-2011: Amid tumult and fireworks, Java remains enterprise middleware stalwart

Java is old enough for a mid-life crisis, but it still forms the foundation for innovative Web apps and enterprise middleware.

The Java language and platform in 2011 is old enough for a mid-life crisis, but it continues to form the foundation for some of the most innovative Web applications and enterprise middleware. It was a major newsmaker in 2010.

Last year saw the formal transfer of Java stewardship from originator Sun Microsystems to Oracle, a move that was not without controversy. As elements in a new Java Developer Kit (JDK) come into focus in 2011, Oracle's technical intentions for the platform will become clearer. It does seem open to supporting different languages on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), but it also seems protective of the JVM itself. Last year's aggressive legal attack on Google's Dalvik JVM-powered Android mobile system put all on notice that Oracle will move more quickly than did Sun to keep control of Java on mobile devices.

The year just passed saw a culmination of the multi-year effort to forge a more modular server-side component architecture for Java. Despite its avowed quest for easy modularity, OSGi -- which still shows its embedded development roots - will seem complicated to some. But even this attests to the variety and vitality of the Java space.

OSGi represents a bit of an end-around play, bypassing the Java Community Process.The fact is that Java -- especially the Java Messaging System (JMS) -- is often intertwined with important open source SOA middleware efforts. This is not to say the big Java-based commercial houses are standing still. For its part, Oracle has made Java middleware a lynchpin in its own integration efforts going forward.

Since Java mascot Duke first skated across a CRT screen, Java has had two sides. It has been one part enterprise plumbing and one part way of life. That helped serve up some human drama in 2010 as ''Father of Java'' James Gosling loudly left Oracle's employ and set up something of a Java government in exile. It all made an interesting year even more interesting -- and set the stage for more fireworks in the year to come.

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