Real-Time Java Featured at JavaOne

Sun dev product group CTO James Gosling and a group of Sun engineers will be promoting real-time Java at this year's JavaOne event by hosting a Slot Car Challenge, where Java running in embedded sensors will direct the movement of toy race cars. Gosling puts the message behind the slot car challenge this way: Java is for more than web servers. IDN takes a preview - and a test drive.

Tags: Real-time Java, Gosling, Devs, Programming, Slot Car, Developers, Embedded Systems,


Sun dev product group CTO James Gosling and a group of Sun engineers will be promoting real-time Java at this year's JavaOne event by hosting a Slot Car Challenge, where Java running in embedded sensors will direct the movement of toy race cars. Gosling puts the message behind the slot car challenge this way: Java is for more than web servers. IDN takes a preview - and a test drive.

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Under the Slot Car Contest set-up, Java devs will write a program that controls the timing and the voltage of current that is sent to the car from some 80 sensors placed around the track. "So, the trick to this contest is to program the best way to send the car fast on the straight-aways and slow on the turns," xx said.

But the problem devs will face will be a mathematical problem - not a programming one. "The competition says that programming in real-time Java is hard, and with this contest we're saying that is not true. Programming in real-time Java is actually really easy. It looks just like programming in regular [J2SE] Java, except there are a couple of things to look pout for, like no garbage collection for instance."

Exhibiting his famous playful nature, Gosling interrupted to insist it would be too easy. "One of the thing that is nice about this set-up is that it makes the programming harder because you have to do the adjustments in between the sensors….So, this loop is interacting within a millisecond, so it is also a clock."

There is an up tick in interest in the financial community, as well as in embedded systems for manufacturing, industrial and even the military. [For more on embedded use of real-time Java, see coverage in EE Times. ]

"The financial world is very intrigued by real-time Java," Gosling said,, "because they are running night time batch jobs or they the more adventuresome ones are running what they think of a 'real-time which is something that happens in the last 10 minutes. But, they are quickly moving to a world where they are thinking about the last 10 milliseconds, and how they can shave the nano-pennies. It can be a big deal over enough transactions." Real-time Java offers a solution to these complex financial trades by dropping garbage collection, which can cause delays or abrupt stops in a complex transaction.

In the telco space, real-time java is also finding support among devs and engineers that want to support SIP protocols and eliminate drop calls, which can also be caused by latencies in processing (not just network connections), which results in less-than-real-time reactions, he added.

Gosling added that he sees many other applications for real-time Java that might not be considered conventional enterprise apps. Remote sensors for changing traffic signals for emergency vehicles, mobile devices like cellphones and PDAs and even 'drive-by-wire' remote steering and auto-parking functions for vehicles.

Today, Gosling admits, the number of real-time Java devs is "close to zero." He adds: "The number of people that do this stuff is small in the world, and you kinda want it that way." To illustrate, Gosling asks, "Just how many people do you want to take the software out of a 747 and playing with it. Real-time java is not the Open Source model of software development."

That said, Gosling insists that Java has a role to play in the long-standing embedded systems software market. "For some large fraction of the real-time developers out there, when they have a bug in their code it can be a real emergency, I mean sometimes somebody dies. We think real-time Java offers some important new options to those developers."

And for those Java devs that just don't do real-time appdev? "Even those developers that won't ever write a real-time [application], it is good for them to see that there is a whole world out there beyond the web server, and that Java is there."




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