Simon Ritter has recently joined Azul Systems as Deputy CTO. We sat down and had a chat with him to find out what he’s going to be doing and his thoughts on the world of Java at the moment and in the future.
Q: Deputy CTO sounds like a great role, what exactly will you be doing at Azul Systems?
A: Yes, Deputy CTO makes me sound very important. Of course, we should make it clear that Gil Tene is still very much the real CTO. I guess you could kind of say I’m his understudy. I see my role as covering three distinct areas. Firstly, I’ll be working to spread the word about Azul’s JVM technologies and products to the Java community. This follows on logically from what I was doing at Oracle and Sun as part of the Java Evangelism team. Expect to see me at lots of the usual Java and Developer conferences like Devoxx, Jfokus and so on. I’ll also be reaching out to the wider Java User Group (JUG) community and hopefully presenting at their meetings as my time and travel schedule allow. Secondly, I’ll be working more closely with customers, getting my hands dirty with code and performance analysis. Lastly, I’ll be trying to help by providing input on product strategy. Azul have recently started providing a version of Zulu, which is their OpenJDK distribution for the embedded and IoT markets. This is an area I’m particularly interested in and hope to make this a big success.
Q: What made you choose Azul over some of the other companies you might have been talking to?
A: There were several reasons. Having been heavily involved with Java almost from the beginning I really wanted to maintain a strong involvement with this technology. Azul is all about the JVM, so it was a very logical fit for me. I’ve been doing Java evangelism for nearly fifteen years and one of the things I’ve loved most about that role has been working with the Java community. It’s really unlike any other group of IT people and I’m always amazed that people will give up their evenings and weekends to come and listen to me talk! My role at Azul will allow me to continue these types of activities, so that was another good reason to join. Being in a role that will have more hands-on technical content was something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. The idea of working for a smaller company, where I could get to know everyone was also very appealing.
Q: There were reports in the IT press that Oracle is no longer interested in Java. What’s your take on that?
A: I think this was given a lot more coverage than it really deserved. Oracle are making a big push around their cloud strategy and, based on that, decided they no longer needed people to explicitly promote Java as a separate platform. There are still people at Oracle who will be talking about Java at conferences both from the Engineering team and Product Management. I’ve seen no intention on Oracle’s part to reduce investment in Java development. JDK 9 will launch next year and people are already discussing features for JDK 10.
Q: What’s your opinion on the future of the Java platform?
A: I think this is a great time for the Java platform. JDK 8 really got developers excited about the language again by including functional style programming features through Lambda expressions and the Streams API. Java consistently rates either number one or two in surveys of most popular programming languages and has done really since it first took off; I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Aside from the language itself and the class libraries the real power comes from the JVM. We’ve seen the development of numerous languages that can be compiled to compatible bytecodes: Scala, Clojure, JRuby and so on. This gives developers a great choice of how they develop their applications yet still being able to take advantage of all the fantastic features the JVM provides them with: automatic memory management, threading, adaptive compilation and so on. It’s hard to believe that Java is twenty years old this year, it feels a lot younger!