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ConFESS 2015 Wrap Up

Hard on the heels of JavaLand was ConFESS. This was the eighth installment of the conference that started life in 2008 as JSF Days, switching to the name "ConFESS" in 2011. The name stands for the "Conference for Enterprise Software Solutions". Last year, ConFESS was held as a partnership with JavaLand in Brühl Germany. Neither party was satisfied with how that turned out and in 2015 ConFESS returned to its home in Vienna, where it will stay. It was a relatively small event, with just over 200 participants. It nicely filled out the venue, the C3 event center in the 3rd district. In my opinion, its small size is a large asset. The ability to have the entire event schedule on two sides of a 4x5 inch card is very convenient.

My overall impression of the conference was very positive. There was a wide variety of talks from speakers I hadn't seen before on the conference circuit. There was a good breadth of coverage in diverse tracks ranging from agile/methods to Java EE to tools to client side technologies, and there was an excellent band on Tuesday night, Florian Braun and FSG Company. There was also a Lego Mindstorms EV3 competition that got rave reviews, but I didn't attend that portion of the event.

The full set of abstracts from the conference are available at the regonline site for the event. You can use that site to learn more about the sessions for which I will give my brief impressions in the remainder of this blog entry.

Tuesday

The Tuesday Keynote was from Oracle Labs's Thomas Wuerthinger. Thomas presented his exciting work on the Graal VM. First off, I'm glad to see that Oracle has continued Sun's tradition of funding long-term research in the spirit of Sun Labs, founded by computing pioneer Ivan Sutherland (yep, just checked, he still works for Oracle). The basic idea of Graal appears to be: take the abstract syntax tree concept from compiler design and make it a first class part of the JIT process, allowing the runtime to rewrite itself as the program runs to achieve greater performance without sacrificing agility. Cool stuff, and great for a keynote.

Sticking with the JSF heritage of the conference, next up was Cagatay Civici's talk about PrimeFaces. Cagatay introduced the new "layouts" concept, built on JSF 2.2 Resource Library Contracts. The base offering consists of two new layouts, Sentinel and Spark. One thing I've always liked about PrimeFaces is how they take the base concepts of the core JSF specification and use them to maximum effect, taking full advantage of new features, large and small.

Diving down a level, Johannes Tuchscherer from CloudFoundry talked about Docker and how it relates to offerings from Pivotal. Johannes put the hype into perspective, showing how you still need other technologies to actually create value with Docker.

Sticking in the Pivotal realm, Jürgen Höller gave the Spring 4.1 overview talk. It was nice to see that they were able to leverage Java SE 8 features while producing a binary that runs on Java SE 6. I was happy to have the opportunity to ask Juergen how pulled that trick off and the answer is basically build-time static code analysis. They compile with Java SE 8 with -source and -target 1.6, and have a build-time tool that looks for usages of Java SE 8 only idioms and APIs, and flags them as failures.

The next talk I attended was a really practical hands on session about Java Flight Recorder from Johan Janssen. I'm a big fan of learning to get more out of tools I already have. JFR has been a part of the JDK for quite some time.

Wednesday

I was happy to see my good friend and fellow Oracle employee Mike Keith given the Wednesday keynote slot. Mike is a veteran of the conference trail, author of Pro JPA2 and former JPA spec lead. Mike was talking about an exciting new product from Oracle: Mobile Back End As A Service (MBaaS). In a nutshell, this product packages up everything enterprises need to deploy mobile based applications that are built on their existing infrastructure. Mike's slides are available for download.

My own session was up next, at which I gave a status update on JSF 2.3. Briefly, it's a community driven release aimed at preserving your existing investment in JSF. I've uploaded my slides to slideshare.

As a counterpart to Johan Janssen's session yesterday I attended Anton Arhipov's session about ZeroTurnaround's XRebel product. I liked his straightforward pitch: most applications receive very little profiling attention, let's make a super simple product that lets you get the low hanging fruit with maximum performance gain. Indeed, the slick browser based UI is very easy to use. When asked about various corner cases, Anton was honest and answered the current state of the product is very narrowly focused on where the most value can be easily extracted. This focus is a key success factor for ZT, in my opinion.

I've always talked up the importance of maintainability, and sold that as a strong suit of the Java EE stack, so it was with great interest that I attended Bernhard Keprt's session about maintenance. One reason I like attending conferences is to remove my 3rd order ignorance by exposing me to technologies I otherwise would not encounter. During Bernhard's talk, he introduced me to VersionEye. The value-add of this tool is easy to perceive: given that you have lots of dependencies, let's have a tool that keeps an eye on them and lets you know when they update.

Stefan Schuster gave a session from his experiences in developing apps for the three big flavors of mobile deployment platforms: native, Apache Cordova, and mobile web app. I liked this session for its first-hand perspective.

To close out my 2015 ConFESS session attendance I viewed Alex Göschl's session on AngularJS. Alex shared his experiences in deployng Angular 1 for the jobs portal for conference sponsor Willhaben. FWIW, I found nine job postings for JSF on the site and four for Angular. This was an enjoyable talk and Alex did a great job explaining the extremely heterogeneous set of tools and technologies used in the project. Prior to switching the jobs portal to Angular 1, they were using GWT. It was pretty much a complete rewrite. The most useful aspect of the talk to me was the ease with which such an apparently complex tool chain is now accepted and leveraged by your average front end team. For example, the following nine step dev time build process was rattled off as if it were no big deal.

  1. clean build targets

  2. compile less to css

  3. copy vendor libraries

  4. copy assets

  5. compile and optimize angular templates

  6. compile and check typescript

  7. copy to tomcat

  8. inject velocity templates

It must just be my Java EE roots that makes me feel that the preceding list is a lot more complex than a similar build process in a Java EE stack. I need to spend more time getting to know the workflow in current front end shops. Can anyone recommend a user group or meetup in Orlando, FL?

Following the two day conference was my full day of workshops. I had a small but dedicated room of students and I hope they enjoyed the sessions.

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