Virtual machine, parallel language projects set

Projects are under way at Sun pertaining to virtual machines and parallelism, Sun officials noted during the JavaOne conference on Thursday morning.

Conference attendees heard insights on where Java and technology in general may be headed, along with promotions of Sun Microsystems's open source NetBeans technologies. Key technologists such as Sun Chief Researcher John Gage, Sun Vice President and Fellow James Gosling, and Sun co-founder Bill Joy offered up their perspectives on technology.

Sun's Squawk project was noted by Gage. Written in Java, Squawk is intended to provide multiple virtual machines and treat an application as an object, Gage said. Squawk would provide more efficient use of memory and power, according to Gage. Squawk was described on Sun's Web site as a compact, high-performance Java environment.

"This is perfect for wireless sensor devices," Gage said.

For the scientific community, Sun is developing Fortress, a research language focused on system parallelism.

"Fortress is trying to do with Fortran what Java did for C," said Sun Fellow Guy Steele.

"In Fortress, parallelism is the default. You actually have to go through some trouble to make a loop be sequential," Steele said. The language is intended for supercomputers, according to Sun's Web site.

Commenting on what Java has meant to the industry, panelist Danny Hills, co-chairman and CTO of Applied Minds, said Java's role in computing has been analogous to the invention of money to replace the barter system. "What Java does is increase the liquidity of computation," Hills said.

Money, he said, enabled everyone to get richer. "Java does this for computation," Hills said.

Performance, complexity, and threading models are issues pertaining to computing as a whole that may arise in the next 10 years, Gosling said, prior to convening the technologist panel. "Really, the number 1 challenge for the next 10 years is just complexity, from an engineer's point of view," Gosling said. Tools provide one effective area for dealing with complexity, he added.

"Ten years out is the end of Moore's Law," Joy said. Moore's Law refers to a statement by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the chip industry should be able to double the number of transistors on a chip every 18 months or so.

Gosling said Moore's Law has generated more opportunities to put transistors on chips. "The whole pursuit of clock rate has kind of started to flatten out a little bit," he added.

The morning session began with demonstrations of NetBeans open source tools technology, with demos covering projects such as Matisse, which is for designing forms, and the NetBeans mobility pack for building cell phone applications.

NetBeans has not had the industry-wide backing of the rival Eclipse platform, which boasts allegiances from vendors such as BEA Systems, IBM, and Oracle. One attendee, however, expressed allegiance to neither platform.

"We're using JDeveloper," from Oracle, said the attendee, Jason Zeilenga, a portal developer at DeVry University in Oakbrook, Ill.

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