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"Middleware Is Still in its Infancy," Says JBoss's Fleury

Marc Fleury Fundamentally Disagress With Sun's Jonathan Schwartz

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    Is middleware becoming commoditized, as Sun's Jonathan Schwartz contends? Or is it a continuing growth area, as "professional open source" advocate Marc Fleury, CEO of JBoss Inc., maintains?

    Fleury is not the first to disagree with Schwartz. Salil Deshpande, CEO of The Middleware Company said, in response to his remarks about the "end" of middleware:

    "Saying that middleware is history is like saying our nation's highways, railways, and waterways are history. They are boring when working well, maybe, but not history. On the contrary, middleware is the future."

    Now Fleury is saying much the same thing, saying in an interview that "Middleware is still in its infancy."

    In particular, Fleury believes,  Aspect Oriented Programming (AOP) - a development methodology that means changes made in one part of an application ripple through the whole application, using a series of task-specific subprograms, or "aspects" - will help simplify the J2EE framework and enterprise Java programming itself.

    JBoss has a vested interest in middleware, it should be said, since the company is working with other JCP members on the next version of Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs), part of the J2EE platform.

    J2EE is inherently complex, according to Fleury, and its complexity can only be masked by innovations like Sun's Java Studio Creator. What is needed to improve its speed and to accelerate programming is for it to move toward the AOP model championed by JBoss.

    AOP; which came out of Xerox PARC a few years ago and is just now becoming mature and mainstream, is in Fleury's view a natural complement to object-oriented programming, and has the promise of easing the management of complex systems and making their organization much more intuitive, extendable, and flexible.

    JBoss's chief architect Bill Burke has explained the essence of AOP, in JDJ:

    "What is an Aspect? An Aspect is a common functionality that's scattered across methods, classes, object hierarchies, or object models. Functionality that your class or object model shouldn't be concerned about, functionality that doesn't belong as it's not what the object is all about. The AOP-ites like to call this type of functionality crosscutting concerns, as the behavior is cutting across multiple points in your object models, and yet is distinctly different from the classes it's crosscutting. AOP allows you to abstract and seamlessly componentize these concerns and apply them to your applications in a unique way that regular object-oriented programs cannot achieve very easily." 
    Developers can apply these same techniques to a multitude of middleware technology like remoteness, ACID, replicated caching, oneway, simple asynchronous invocations, role-based security, and persistence, Burke contends.

    "AOP prevents system programming from intruding into your object model," he adds.  "It has the potential to completely separate the concern of middleware from your application logic. This can make your code easier to maintain and read, and more flexible as you can make system architecture decisions later on in the development process. It's a pure layered approach to applying middleware."

    Burke and Fleury eagerly await the infant's continuing growth into adolescence and adulthood. The technology community itself, of course, will have the final say. 

     

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