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Article July 12th, 2023

by Mohamed Taman, Solution Architect

Think Java is dead? Think again!

Is Java a tired relic of the past that’s ready for the programming language museum, or is it still a vital weapon in every good developer’s arsenal? Read on to find out.

A powerful and widely-used programming language for over two decades, Java has had a transformative impact on the software development landscape and today remains a dominant force in modern software development. With every year seeing new young pretenders to the crown emerging, is Java still relevant and worth learning in 2023? We look at Java’s evolution, current market standing, and impact on software development to show why today it matters more than ever.

Java is Still Around for a Reason

Java is still used across numerous industries because it is environmentally-friendly, thread-safe, secure, object-oriented, and backward-compatible. It also has minimal dependencies on multiple platforms. Its simplicity and readability make it ideal for enterprise software development, especially with large teams and extended product lifecycles. At the same time as being simple and readable, Java has extensive documentation, which allows developers to learn from it quickly and easily. Other languages (such as Kotlin, Scala, Groovy, Jython, and JRuby) can also use well-known libraries with Java.

Java SE 9+ follows a predictable release train; releasing a new version every six months means the latest features and improvements are available more frequently.

Java Release Train graph

Figure 1: Java Release Train

Image Source (The Arrival of Java 20!)

Java is more than its main features

The most recent release is Java 20, while the upcoming Java 21 marks a new long-term support (LTS) release on September 19th, 2023. LTS releases are crucial as they offer long-term support and stability to enterprises. Furthermore, the gap between LTS releases has been cut from three to two years to provide this support more frequently.

Additionally, there’s much more to each Java release than the well-known JEPs (Java Enhancement Proposal), hidden gems like features, deprecations, removals, enhancements, additions, and bug fixes also hold significance, despite not receiving equal attention as major JEPs. For the latest updates on Java 20 and to see these changes in action, check The Hidden and Not-so-hidden Gems in Java 20 article I wrote for Java Magazine. You can read more of my Java Hidden Gems series here.

Java is Embracing the Cloud, Embedded Systems, and IoT

Java has evolved to meet the demands of modern software development, including the growing interest in the cloud, embedded systems, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The language’s platform-independent nature and extensive libraries make it a good choice for developers to create applications that run on a wider range of devices and platforms, including cloud, embedded, and IoT systems. Big-brand apps like Netflix, LinkedIn, and Salesforce use Java-based tech, proving its suitability for cloud computing. With Java, developers can write cross-platform apps that run on AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Additionally, Java’s compatibility with popular IoT protocols like MQTT and CoAP makes it an ideal choice for IoT development.

Tools and frameworks are available for modern software development with Java-based serverless apps. Java in AWS Lambda (serverless applications) provides access to libraries and frameworks, concurrent programming, memory management, and AWS Lambda support. AWS services like S3, DynamoDB, and SQS integrate well with Java-based SDKs, aiding in distributed and scalable app development.

Containerization and Java are an ideal pairing in modern software development. Containerizing Java apps brings benefits like easy deployment, better performance and scalability, and increased reliability and security. Tools and frameworks are available to help developers containerize their Java applications for modern software development practices.

The Java Virtual Machine (JVM) evolved to support the cloud and is the standard runtime for Java apps; GraalVM, a newer alternative, supports various languages and offers faster startup times, lower memory consumption, and improved performance. These attributes allow Java developers to create efficient, versatile native apps for the cloud and serverless applications.

Java is Modern Enough to Support Big Data, AI, and ML

Java’s scalability, portability, extensive library, and ecosystem make it an excellent choice for big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) domains.

Java’s scalability and support for multithreading and concurrent programming make building distributed and parallel applications easier. Java-based applications can be easily scaled to handle large volumes of data and complex processing tasks.

Good examples are frameworks like Apache Hadoop, Apache Spark, Deeplearning4j, Apache Mahout, or Deep Netts (JSR381 Visual Recognition API). These facilitate large-scale, often distributed, data processing and machine learning, enabling developers to create cutting-edge applications in these domains.

For AI and ML applications, Java provides several libraries and frameworks for building ML models, including Deeplearning4j, Java-ML, and Weka. These libraries offer various classification, regression, clustering algorithms, and more. Additionally, Java supports neural networks and deep learning through libraries like DL4J and TensorFlow.

Support for multiple operating systems makes deploying and running Java-based AI and ML applications easy on various platforms, including cloud, edge devices, and others.

Java supports data structures like arrays and lists, and libraries like Apache Commons Math support linear algebra and numerical analysis. Java also supports data manipulation and analysis, which is essential for AI and ML applications. It also provides built-in support for data serialization and deserialization, making it easy to read and write data to and from files and databases.

Finally, for AI and ML applications that require fast and responsive processing, Java supports real-time data processing frameworks like Apache Storm and Flink, which can be used to build real-time streaming applications.

Is Java Still in Demand, and What Can I Earn as a Java Programmer?

The global Java community has around 12 million developers, making it one of the most popular and in-demand programming languages. It consistently ranks high in indices like the TIOBE Index and RedMonk, so there is plenty of demand for Java developers in the job market. According to Glassdoor, Java developers in the United States earn an average annual salary of over USD 99,000, making it one of the country’s highest-paying jobs.

Java remains a trendy choice for developing applications and services at major tech companies. The industry’s biggest brands – including global giants like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Apple, and Microsoft – use Java for various purposes, including cloud computing, databases, and storage. These companies also contribute to Java development through OpenJDK and release their own JDK versions – Microsoft JDK and Amazon Corretto being just two examples – to support their cloud services.

In a recent survey by Nortal, Java was found to be the second most widely used and preferred programming language, making it a top choice for developers looking to improve their skills.

Java’s Ecosystem: Tools, Frameworks, and the Community

Java’s ecosystem includes helpful tools and frameworks. For instance, Spring, Jakarta EE, and Hibernate are popular frameworks that simplify enterprise app development. JUnit is a testing framework that can be used to ensure high software quality. Java developers can choose from several integrated development environments (IDEs), including Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA, Apache NetBeans, and Visual Studio Code.

Additionally, Java provides various building tools and dependency management options like Apache Ant, Gradle, and Maven. These options streamline software development by seamlessly integrating third-party libraries into the project.

It also offers a well-established toolset, including JMCJFRjstackMbeans, and Java Agents for continuous system behavior monitoring.

Finally, the Java Community Process (JCP) empowers developers, businesses, and individuals to contribute to Java’s growth. The vast, active Java community offers resources like forums, conferences, and online support. Its developers, vendors, educators, and enthusiasts collaboratively shape Java’s future, including syntax, APIs, and libraries.

Java Isn’t Dead; Long Live Java!

Java is a persuasive language in software development that continues to evolve to meet the needs of modern developers and businesses. Its compatibility with emerging technologies, strong community support, and vast ecosystem make it a dominant and vital skill for any programmer today.

Java is a reliable choice with abundant resources for developers to learn and grow, and its compatibility with modern tools and machine learning makes it a universal language. Its popularity, high demand in the job market, and rich ecosystem make it an attractive option. For all these reasons and more, Java will continue to play a crucial role in software development for many years to come.

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