OK, this interview is with me on Java scalability issues. I sound like a bigger idiot than I would like, but I suppose it could have been worse. The Java World folks were very nice and did a good job, so there’s no blame on them :-) The interview went an interesting direction, but there’s more I’d like add and I will do so here. Two major rules regarding Java and scalability have popped out at me:
How Java affects both Performance and ScalabilityPeter Williams in this very informative blog post discusses how Java affects both performance and scalability. The main points are:
The Top 10 Ways to Botch Enterprise Java Application Scalability and ReliabilityThis is a wonderful presentation by Oracle’s Cameron Purdy. Here’s a PDF. Cameron was CEO of Tangosol before Oracle bought them out. Tangosol made Coherence, a distributed cache. Cameron is a long time prolific contributor to the Java community. His presentation is a must see. He’s both entertaining and technically excellent. The main points he makes in the presentation are:
AzulAzul is a Java Compute Appliance and is the ultimate scale-up play for Java. It kind of does what Google App Engine does at the framework level but does it to the JVM at the hardware level. Current standard practice is to deploy Java application across a cluster of commodity servers. Azul does the opposite. It goes big. The most recent release can contain up to 864 processor cores and 768 GB of memory. That’s big. Azul transparently runs unmodified Java applications on their specialized hardware platform which allows even the most mild mannered of Java apps to scale. Their hardware-assisted garbage collector dramatically reduces application pauses and gives access to hundred of gigabytes of RAM. Some very impressive performance improvements are possible. In one case study Breakthrough Scalability of an Application Constrained to an x86 Server, an application was given access to 384 cores and 128 GB of memory on an Azul compute appliance. The result was a 45x improvements in scalability. Scalability was increased along a number of dimensions (quoted from their article):
X10X10 is not just an inexpensive home automation control system. X10 is also:
A type-safe, modern, parallel, distributed object-oriented language intended to be very easily accessible to Java(TM) programmers. It is targeted to future low-end and high-end systems with nodes that are built out of multi-core SMP chips with non-uniform memory hierarchies, and interconnected in scalable cluster configurations. A member of the Partitioned Global Address Space (PGAS) family of languages, X10 highlights the explicit reification of locality in the form of places; lightweight activities embodied in async, future, foreach, and ateach constructs; constructs for termination detection (finish) and phased computation (clocks); the use of lock-free synchronization (atomic blocks); and the manipulation of global arrays and data structures. An Eclipse-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE) has been developed at IBM for X10 to help further increase programmer productivity by providing state-of-the-art functionality for viewing, editing, navigating, executing, and manipulating X10 programs.X10 is built on top of Java. X10 adds:
Clojure is a dynamic programming language that targets the Java Virtual Machine. It is designed to be a general-purpose language, combining the approachability and interactive development of a scripting language with an efficient and robust infrastructure for multithreaded programming. Clojure is a compiled language - it compiles directly to JVM bytecode, yet remains completely dynamic. Every feature supported by Clojure is supported at runtime. Clojure provides easy access to the Java frameworks, with optional type hints and type inference, to ensure that calls to Java can avoid reflection. Clojure is a dialect of Lisp, and shares with Lisp the code-as-data philosophy and a powerful macro system. Clojure is predominantly a functional programming language, and features a rich set of immutable, persistent data structures. When mutable state is needed, Clojure offers a software transactional memory system and reactive Agent system that ensure clean, correct, multithreaded designs.Clojure doesn’t fit my aging mental model. The message-passing actor model of Erlang is more my style. Interestingly the difference between Erlang and Clojure is quite purposeful. Clojure wants to be efficient while operating in the same process rather than taking a message passing hit for every operation. Clojure requires specifying an agent as the receiver of a message where I prefer a more publish-subscribe approach where message senders and consumers are independent. Clojure's use of Java threads makes latency difficult to control. And I'm not sure a S-expression based language can ever become popular. But these are relatively minor issues compared to the task of making Java safe for parallelism. Java does OOP well enough, but sucks at concurrency. Clojure is a nice middle-ground that may be able to make concurrency-oriented programming by real humans in Java a reality. OSGI is a solution that should make dynamic and high availability deployment of Java web services a reality. OSGi is a dynamic module system for Java. Class loading done right. OSGi defines an architecture for developing and deploying modular applications and libraries by creating a microkernel-style architecture. There’s a core set of modules that make up a basic platform and new functionality is dynamically layered in with a plugin. Using OSGi these plugins are isolated, secured and controlled from the rest of code. The unit of deployment is an OSGi bundle, which is simply a JAR file with an OSGi manifest. This approach allows loosely-coupled application modules to be developed by a team of developers. Everything is kept in-sync using version numbers and module dependency ranges. If you’ve ever worked with Linux this should sound familiar. It’s basically how packages are installed on Linux.