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New Oracle Java modularity method, or trying to do this Jigsaw puzzle

Recent machinations around Jigsaw will make it new and more modular, its advocates say. But the fact is, it's not ready for prime time just yet.

One thing about high technology is there's always something new coming along. Usually, it's better, at least in some way. Yet, you can't throw out what you already have until you are sure you have a replacement. That's still one of the things that makes technology assessment a bit of an art. Look at the recent machinations around Jigsaw, for example.

What is Jigsaw? It's a framework for modularizing Java EE containers. Some of you may ask, "Isn't that what OSGi does?" Well, yes, that is true, but, admittedly, OSGi is a challenging technology to administer. It has wended its way through standardization and development for many years, and seems old-style to some. Jigsaw, less familiar, will be new and more modular, its advocates say. But the fact is, it's not ready for prime time just yet.

In July, Oracle's Mark Reinhold blogged to the effect that Project Jigsaw will not be ready for the next rev of Java -- that is, Java 8, planned for September 2013. That could very well place Jigsaw as a standard reality somewhere in the 2015 timeframe.

Writes Reinhold:

"Jigsaw is currently slated for Java 8. The proposed development schedule for Java 8 expects work on major features to be finished by May 2013, in preparation for a final release around September. Steady progress is being made, but some significant technical challenges remain. There is, more importantly, not enough time left for the broad evaluation, review and feedback which such a profound change to the platform demands.

"I therefore propose to defer Project Jigsaw to the next release, Java 9. In order to increase the predictability of all future Java SE releases, I further propose to aim explicitly for a regular two-year release cycle going forward."

Perhaps one could kind of see this coming. It doesn't take a seer. OSGi does some difficult work, and it took time to happen. Jigsaw may do the work more easily or differently, but it, too, takes time to happen. We recall's coverage of Jigsaw when described as part of a 2011 story on then-new OSGi bundling. Then it was said, "Difficult as it may be, OSGi is here today, which gives it a certain edge against a Jigsaw-enabled OpenJDK 8 that is still in the future."

Sun Microsystems had at times a bit of a penchant for coming up with better ideas than others in the Java community, but would take a long time to execute on those plans. Taken as a whole, it kind of became a trend that slowed Java down. Will Oracle be better at this part of the game? So far, the consensus has been somewhat favorable, but things like Jigsaw suggest Oracle, too, may sometimes be riddled on its way to the next best thing.

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