The 2012 JAX Innovation Awards

by Janice J. Heiss

JAX Innovation Awards winners reflect the vibrancy of the Java community.

Published September 2012

The winners of the 2012 JAX Innovation Awards were announced in early July. These awards, given by S&S Media Group, aim to, "Reward those technologies, companies, organizations and individuals that make outstanding contributions to Java." The awards fall into three categories: Most Innovative Java Technology, Most Innovative Java Company, and Top Java Ambassador. In addition, a finalist who did not win an award receives a Special Jury prize, "in acknowledgement of their unique contribution and positive impact on the Java ecosystem."

Individuals, companies, and technologies are nominated by the Java community, after which a distinguished panel of experts narrows the choices down to a shortlist of five finalists in each category; then the community votes on the winners. The panel of experts for the 2012 JAX Innovation Awards consisted of:

  • Eberhard Wolff, Architecture and Technology Manager, adesso AG
  • Tim Berglund, Principal Consultant, August Technology Group
  • Martijn Verburg, CTO, jClarity
  • Fabiane Bizinella Nardon, Tools Expert, ToolsCloud
  • Jevgeni Kabanov, CEO, ZeroTurnaround
  • Dan Allen, Principal Software Engineer, Red Hat
  • Stephen Chin, Java Technology Evangelist, Oracle
  • Sebastian Meyen, Chief Content Officer, S&S Media Group

The 2012 winners were:

  • JetBrains, Most Innovative Java Company award
  • Adam Bien, Top Java Ambassador award
  • Restructure 101, created by Headway Software, Most Innovative Java Technology award
  • Charles Nutter, Special Jury prize

The five finalists in each category were invited to attend the JAX Conference in San Francisco, California, and this year's winners each received a $2,500 prize.

JetBrains: "Professional Challenge First, Business Second"

The Most Innovative Java Company award went to JetBrains because it:

  • Is characterized by ingenuity and a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities of the Java ecosystem
  • Demonstrates an inventive business model based on Java technologies
  • Leverages the potential commercial value of the Java platform in an original and inspiring way

We spoke with JetBrains Fellow Ann Oreshnikova who informed us that, while the full list of JetBrains' innovations is quite long, their favorites are:

  • Nullability annotations and nullability checker
  • CamelCase navigation and completion
  • Continuous Integration in grid (on multiple agents), in TeamCity
  • IntelliJ Platform and its language support framework
  • MPS language workbench
  • Kotlin programming language

Prior to winning the JAX award, JetBrains received an impressive list of honors, such as the InfoWorld 2011 Technology of the Year Award; the SD Times 2008 Top 100 Award; and the Visual Studio Magazine 2010 Readers' Choice Award.

I asked Oreshnikova how the culture of JetBrains encourages such creativity. "First of all," she observed, "we love what we do. The most important thing for us internally is to make sure that every team member is satisfied with the task they are working on. We believe this is the only way to make really cool things and never drop the ball. You could say our corporate policy is professional challenge first, business second. Also, at JetBrains, everyone is allowed to make mistakes. This helps us to remain open-minded and experiment with different—even risky—approaches, without having to initiate all-the-way-up-and-down hierarchical approvals for what we want to try. Mutual trust and respect are probably the strong points that allow us to keep moving forward and feel we are doing it right."

Oreshnikova explained that JetBrains has an interesting history that grew out of one innovative idea. "Twelve years ago, three friends—all Java developers—inspired by Martin Fowler's ideas of code refactoring, decided to make a tool that would automate this extremely tedious task, and make it simple, fast, and safe," she explained. "This was initially implemented in Renamer—a plug-in to Borland's JBuilder, the most widely used Java IDE at the time. Renamer quickly evolved into a standalone IDE, thanks to another innovation from the same team: Java code completion, which allowed users not only to avoid typos, but to code faster and produce cleaner code at the same time. This is how IntelliJ IDEA came to the market. It was a revolutionary tool, and it immediately won the software Oscar—the Jolt Excellence Award. Today, smart code completion, automated refactorings, built-in code checking, and intentional programming are de facto standards and essentials of everyday coding. But not many know that JetBrains first introduced these approaches and set the bar for implementation quality."

She explained that JetBrains fervently believes in "eating its own dog food." "We are our own most critical customers," she remarked. "We start using our software the moment it first compiles. This constantly fuels our motivation and commitment to improvement."

She also asserted that staying close to and connected with the Java community is essential for inspiring JetBrains to make better tools.

Top Java Ambassador Adam Bien

The JAX Innovations Awards defines a Java Ambassador as a person or group who:

  • Shows outstanding commitment as an advocate of the Java ecosystem
  • Makes a significant contribution to the establishment of an open culture of communication and innovation within the Java community
  • Helps to increase the value potential of the Java ecosystem, through technical or organizational accomplishments

We got hold of Adam Bien, who previously was named a Java Champion, JavaOne Rock Star, and Oracle Magazine Java Developer of the Year, to get his take on Java today. He expressed excitement that the smallest companies and startups are showing increasing interest in Java EE. "This is a very good sign," said Bien. "Only a few years ago, J2EE was mostly used by larger companies—now Java EE is becoming interesting even for the "one-person show." Java EE events are also extremely popular. On the Java SE side, I'm really excited about Project Nashorn."

Nashorn is an upcoming JavaScript engine, developed fully in Java by Oracle and based on the Da Vinci Machine (JSR 292). It is expected to be available for Java SE 8.

Bien expressed concern about a common misconception regarding Java's mediocre productivity. "The problem is not Java," explained Bien, "but rather systems built with ancient patterns and approaches. Sometimes it really is 'cargo cult programming.' Java SE/EE can be incredibly productive and lean without the unnecessary and hard-to-maintain bloat. The real problem is 'ivory towers,' not Java's lack of productivity."

Bien remarked that if there is one thing he wanted Java developers to understand it is that, "Premature optimization is the root of all evil, or at least of some evil. Modern JVMs and application servers are hard to optimize up front. It is far easier to write simple code and measure the results continuously. Identify the hotspots first, and then optimize."

He advised Java EE developers to, "Rethink everything you know about enterprise Java. Before you implement anything, ask the question: 'Why?' If there is no clear answer, don't do it. Most well-known best practices are outdated. Focus your efforts on the domain problem, not on the technology."

Looking ahead, Bien remarked, "I would like to see open source application servers running directly on a hypervisor. Packaging the whole runtime in a single file would significantly simplify deployment and operations."

A JRuby Update from Charles Nutter

We asked Charles Nutter of Red Hat, the Special Jury prize winner, to give us the latest on JRuby. "JRuby seems to have hit a tipping point this past year," he explained, "moving from 'just another Ruby implementation' to 'the best Ruby implementation for X,' where X may be performance, scaling, big data, stability, reliability, security, and a number of other features important for today's applications. We're currently wrapping up JRuby 1.7, which improves support for Ruby 1.9 APIs, solves a number of user issues and concurrency challenges, and utilizes invokedynamic to outperform all other Ruby implementations by a wide margin. JRuby just gets better and better."

When asked what he thought about the rapid growth of alternative languages for the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), he replied, “I'm very intrigued by efforts to bring a high-performance JavaScript runtime to the JVM. There's really no reason the JVM couldn't be the fastest platform for running JavaScript with the right implementation, and I'm excited to see that happen."

And what is Nutter working on currently? "Aside from the JRuby 1.7 wrap-up," he explained, "I'm helping the Java HotSpot VM developers investigate invokedynamic performance issues and test driving their new invokedynamic code in Java SE 8. I'm also starting to explore ways to improve the general state of dynamic languages on the JVM using JRuby as a guide and to help the JVM become a better platform for all kinds of languages."

Restructure 101: Most Innovative Java Technology

Restructure 101, created by Headway Software, was named the Most Innovative Java Technology because it:

  • Solves a particularly challenging problem in a creative way
  • Is characterized by technical brilliance in both architecture and implementation
  • Enriches the Java ecosystem in terms of practicality and relevance
  • Brings a new perspective to the application of Java technology

Restructure 101 facilitates the management of large, unstructured code bases, thus enabling developers to refactor complex code bases by taking advantage of visualizations of the code provided by Restructure's Levelized Structure Map (LSM). With Restructure 101, it becomes feasible to retrofit an architecture to large unstructured code bases, enabling developers to profit from the undisputed benefits of modularity when the code gets big.

Restructure 101, a 2011 Jolt Productivity Award winner, builds on Structure101, a 2008 Jolt Productivity Award winner that has helped thousands of developers control structural complexity and architecture. Headway Software developed the entirely new LSM interactive visual model, which was specifically designed to help software architects delve into structural problems and explore solutions by directly manipulating the model. Refactoring actions are then pushed to the IDE for implementation.

The Java Community on the Move

What is clear from this year's winners is that innovation continues to thrive throughout the Java community. Congratulations to winners, finalists, nominees, and the community at large—all winners!

See Also

About the Author

Janice J. Heiss is the Java acquisitions editor at Oracle and a technology editor at Java Magazine.

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