Fancying myself as a wise prognosticator is fun, so I’ll lay down down a guess or two about technology in 2008.

OPEN TERRACOTTA

First, I am overwhelmed with ideas and potential uses for Open Terracotta as well as mystified and amazed by its ease of use.

I am a curmudgeon for most technologies. I’ve got a healthy skepticism for anything recommended by vendors. It almost always seems like a lot more than I need. I’m more than a little lazy. I want quick and easy, fast and simple. I’ve learned over the course of my career that simple isn’t easy. It takes good, smart work to make things simple.

For example, years ago, I avoided EJBs (and thus heavy weight app servers) just because they seemed like a really hard way of writing otherwise simple classes. I wanted to write simple classes and deploy to a simple container, so I rolled my own ORM and deployed all my apps on Tomcat. Today? Vindication! Rod Johnson and the folks who developed Spring deserve every bit of credit they get. They were equally frustrated with the vendor-driven solution and created a fantastic framework for POJO-based programming. Likewise, Hibernate — which Spring embraces beautifully — was a “roll your own” ORM that grew into one of best pieces in Java’s open source community. Add Java 5’s Generics to Spring and Hibernate3 and you’ve got all the tools you need to create a reusable framework for writing ultra-small, easily configured POJO DAOs and transactional Facades.

Back to Terracotta… Open Terracotta is clustering software. It is one of the finest uses of AOP I’ve seen. It invisibly and magically clusters your Java classes via configuration. You write your programs in simple POJO style, then declare what Terracotta should cluster. Developers can run small, simple unit tests for their work and let Configuration Managers handle the clustering.

What really got me was how easy it was to configure. The guys at Terracotta provide several excellent examples with the Terracotta distribution. Simplistic examples only go so far, of course, so they’ve also provided detailed error messages to guide you as you’re learning what goes into that magical config file.


Look! Useful error messages!
Terracotta Error Message

Terracotta is Free Open Source Software (FOSS), which is the best kind of software to facilitate widespread usage. It’s been open for a little over a year now. I predict good things in ‘08 for this software.

GRID COMPUTING

More cores on each chip and ever cheaper computers means we’ll have yet more computing power tomorrow than we did yesterday. My laptop has a dual core 2.4Ghz CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 90GB drive. Install your favorite Linux distro and you’ve got a monster server compared to what was available 10 years ago. This type of machine is cheap, too, compared to a server from 10 years ago. That means you can buy a whole lot more of them.

What do we do with all this computer power? How do we harness it?

With enabling software like Terracotta, clustering becomes easy. You’ve still got to design your software to take advantage of parallelism, but the act of running programs in parallel is no longer difficult. This is what Fred Brooks means when he talks about the essential versus accidental complexity.

Distributing code and running massively parallel programs used to be difficult. It required complex architectures and expensive application servers. This is accidental complexity. Advances in software development — like Terracotta, GridGain, Spring, and other FOSS programs — dramatically reduce if not eliminate the accidental complexity of distributing your programs to a cluster of machines. The essential complexity is writing your program and designing it for parallelism from the start. What your software does will always be the hard part of writing software, which is why there really isn’t a Silver Bullet. Enabling technologies like Terracotta, however, makes it easier to move bits around. We’ll see more uses of “the grid” in 2008.

SUMMARY

Grids have been coming for a long time, and lots of work have been put into them such that it’s constantly getter easier to write for and deploy to a grid. Watch how Open Terracotta enables architects to design a grid in ways that we haven’t even imagined yet.

I think 2008 is going to be a very good year for architects and developers.