Java Discontinuities in Practice

Nov 23, 2020, 11:04 AM

Tags: java

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about the lay of the Java land, and in it I mentioned the oddities of post-8 Java releases as well as the then-oncoming namespace conversion in Jakarta EE. Those changes are a bit more "real" now, so I think it's worth taking the opportunity to expand on them and how they relate to Java with Domino.

Jakarta EE 9

With Jakarta EE 9 officially out now, I think it's all the more important to keep an eye on what these changes are. For Jakarta's part, there's a convenient post up on Eclipse's site detailing the specifics of what's going on, and most of what I say here is really just going to rehash that.

The "namespace conversion" in question is the switch from javax.* to jakarta.* for EE-related packages like Servlet, due to Oracle not granting rights to the "javax" term. This has involved a lot of fiddly work internally for the Jakarta project as a whole, and all of the included specs have received a major-version bump to reflect the break. In general, these new versions are functionally equivalent to the previous release, but use the different package names - so Servlet 5 has the same capabilities as 4, JSF 3 as 2.3, and on down the line.

A bit of a quirk in this is that not all classes in the javax.* namespace will be moving to jakarta.*, because not everything in there was part of Java EE. For example, Swing is in javax.swing, but it's not going anywhere. It gets fiddlier, too, especially when it comes to XML. The JDK traditionally (more on that in a bit) contained a couple distinct technologies wrapped up under the javax.xml package space, but some of those are actually part of Java EE and make the transition to Jakarta. For example, the javax.xml.transform package (covering XSLT) is part of what was originally termed "Java API for XML Processing", or "JAX-P", and is still part of the Java SE core. The javax.xml.bind package (covering mapping between XML and Java objects) was part of the "Java Architecture for XML Binding" API, or "JAX-B", and is not part of Java SE anymore. It's now "Jakarta XML Binding" and is receiving a package change to jakarta.xml.bind. I think it's cases like these that will be hairy for a lot of people not doing full Jakarta EE 9 work.

For the most part, this won't have an effect on Java development on Domino for a good while. Domino has never tracked changes in the EE world - XPages was a partial fork of Java EE 5 and that's been about it. I think that the ways it will affect Domino development (other than if you just outright do Jakarta EE development, which you should) is that code examples and third-party libraries are going to gradually transition over to the new namespaces, making them incompatible with code in the Domino stack. This will certainly affect things like my XPages Jakarta EE Support project, where future versions of the implementation components won't be usable directly if they use the Servlet spec, even if they don't require Servlet 3+ functionally.

So I think it's worth being aware of what's going on, even if there's not (yet) anything you need to do about it. The same applies to the changes in the core Java runtime itself.

Java 11 and Beyond

After 8, Java switched to a peculiar numbering system, where new major-version-numbered releases come out every six months, but only the ones that come out every three years are Long-Term-Service releases. As of right now, the current version of Java is 15, but 11 is the active LTS one, and so 11 is effectively the "real" current version for concerns like platform vendors. Java 8 is now in the same spot that Java 6 was for a while, where it's been the baseline expectation for a long time, and it's a slog of a process to move the full community past it.

Still, Java 11 is certainly hitting critical mass now. Eclipse-the-IDE started requiring it in the 2020-09 release, and the various app servers have either supported it for a while or are on the cusp of doing so.

There are a lot of nice things added to the language in the releases past 8, but they've also gotten more aggressive about removing things from the core Java SE runtime, and those changes are the things likely to be immediately noticeable Domino-wise. As I mentioned above, JAX-B was always technically an EE specification, but it was shipped with Java SE for a good long time. As of Java 11, though, it's gone, and instead must be either provided by the app server or brought in as an explicit dependency. The same goes for some less-important packages, such as org.omg - though that package sounds fun, it stands for "Object Management Group" and it just included some classes used for CORBA.

I imagine that few Domino developers use JAX-B or CORBA directly, but our old nemesis Notes.jar sure does! If you're doing any project builds outside of Domino that make use of the Notes.jar API, you likely already have or will soon run into this. For Tycho, I made a patch fragment that provides the required API to the com.ibm.notes.java.api bundle a good while back. For non-Tycho projects, your best bet is generally to include a dependency on the GlassFish-packaged variant and a pre-3.0 version of the Jakarta XML Bind API.

There will be some further removals down the line, like RMI Activation, but I don't think any currently on the horizon will be as pertinent as those.

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