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What I Got For Christmas

By Brett McLaughlin

So often at Enhydra and in my other writings, I get to play the rather enjoyable role of eternal optimist. Open source will take over the world, commercialism is never needed, Sun will see the light and completely revamp J2EE, JSP will die a long slow death... you get the idea. And with the technology sector getting beat up on lately, even with the Fed's rate cut, it might seem that I should take up that role again, and convince all of you that now is still the time of technology, that we are still in the biggest boom ever. However, I'm not going to do that. Instead, I want to play the role of realist, and also let you know a little about what I got for Christmas. In the process, I think you might feel a little bit better about the future of Enhydra, technology in general, and how we can acheive world peace in 2001... well, not that last, but I suppose "two out of three ain't bad".

First, though, you need a little bit of perspective. I love Christmas. Now when I say "love", I mean it in the true sense of the word. Since I was a little kid, Christmas was simply the best day of the year. And I had a granddad that spoiled my sister and I rotten, which meant that there was no shortage of gifts. When I married my wife, I was delighted to find out that Christmas was an equally big even in her family; her mother literally saves all year to give her three kids and their spouses a real "Christmas extravaganza." And finally, I've been blessed with several oppurtunities that allow me to, in turn, spoil my family rotten. So the point of all this is that when I say "Christmas" I could just as easily say "the time when Brett goes crazy, buying up everything in sight, and generally going all out for about thirty days." Get the idea?

So what does this have to do with anything, you ask. Good question. Well, like any good red-blooded male, shopping is a horrible, terrifying experience for me. So buying gifts actually boils down to two categories: the things I can get my wife to go and buy, and the things I'm left to deal with on my own. When we decided to start shopping this year, though, my wife suggested checking online for some of the items, as we live in a smallish town (Waco, Texas). On December 10th I hopped onto my trusty laptop with my wireless NIC (Orinoco by Lucent - tres cool!), and started buying. Four hours later, my wife was insisting that I stop, claiming that she would have nothing left to go shopping for. I literally bought almost every gift we were looking for completely online with no human intervention.

While this might not seem like a big deal, you have to realize that I wasn't buying Palm Pilots or books here, but some rather obscure items. Hockey helmets, a stuffed snowman doll complete with fish and tackle gear, a French White Corning Ware set (I have no idea what that is, but my mother seemed to like it!), a Mac for my wife's mom, DVDs, clothes, shoes... the list goes on. And in every case, I had no trouble finding a reputable online dealer who would ship my order out within 24 hours, complete with tracking numbers and e-mail confirmations. I even submitted some rebates online and already have received checks at my house.

This was particularly interesting to me, because the media is reporting (correctly, I believe) that sales are down this year, that we might be at the beginning of a recession, that technology stocks are seeing the bottom drop out, and that the sky just might be falling. And of course, as a technical writer and employee at an application server company, this had me a bit... maybe even more than a bit... concerned. However, as I placed order after order, entrusting my credit card number to merchant upon merchant, and my happy holidays to shippers who rely on applications as much as on gasoline, I began to feel better. My growing euphoria wasn't even based on the high I was receiving from all this Christmas buying (well, it wasn't all based on that ;-) ). Instead, it was resting on the idea that each of these purchases, each of these packages humming along from Shopville, USA, to Waco, Texas, was living and dying upon an application server somewhere. Each transaction I made increased some companies reliance on software solutions, which were built on... an application server! Starting to see why my life was getting better?

You see, every company, from "Joe's Shoes" to amazon.com requires computer systems. And although there are the few that still stake their businesses on Billy Gates and the vapor-ware called .NET, the majority of companies are relying on Java, and Java application servers. Even further, while these companies may not be doing well, or may be having to cut back on inventory and so forth, those applications still run, maintaining company contact lists, inventory, sales figures, and more. And as long as that is the case (as I'm sure it will be for many, many years to come), application servers are in demand - great demand!

Add to that that I still believe that Enhydra and the upcoming Enhydra Enterprise remain the best choices across the board, and life is pretty good from where I'm sitting. Robust and with a huge (and active) user base, growing faster than any server I see, and rooted in open source, Enhydra is still my bet for the application server of the future. Add to this that for you, the end user, it is easier than ever to sell your boss on, and everything is coming up roses. You see, with this recent downturn in so many areas of business, this is the key time to get your company sold on open source. You can continue developing applications while not having to dish out hundreds of thousands of dollars on an application server like BEA or IBM, and make your boss happy; and all the while, you get to use open source software. So really, what's there to complain about?

You see, I don't have to play optimist these days, because realism is just fine for me. This softening of the markets actually makes it easier for you, the developer, to get Enhydra and other open source projects into your company's door, through even the most stalwart managers who abhor free software, and into production. Before you know it, your VP's computer will have little Otter stickers on it, and you'll be adding your own contributions to Enhydra. So try a new perspective for the new year, I hope you had a great Christmas, and I'll see you next month. Until then, I'll be online, or playing my new Playstation 2 (bought... you guessed it... online!). See you!

Brett McLaughlin is the author of Java And XML, published by O'Reilly. He currently specializes in building application infrastructure using Java and Java-related technologies. He has spent the last several years implementing these infrastructures at Nextel Communications and Allegiance Telecom, Inc. Brett is one of the co-founders of the Java Apache project Turbine, which builds a reusable component architecture for web application development using Java servlets. He also contributes to the EJBoss Project, an Open Source EJB application server, and Cocoon, an Open source XML web-publishing engine. His projects all focus on XML and the J2EE platform in mission-critical, high-performance distributed systems. Brett has recently been appointed Enhydra Strategist at Lutris Technologies.


News, Articles & Events:

Enhydra.org News Archive - Important events in the Enhydra community.

Making Waves Column - a regular and sometimes controversal editorial (by Brett McLaughlin).

Enhydra Events - Shows and seminars where you will find Enhydra exhibits.

Feature Article:
Zeus, Data Binding, and You
by Brett McLaughlin

Archive:
What I Got for Christmas
by Brett McLaughlin

Jay-too-who-eee?
by Brett McLaughlin

"Open Source Guy" and the Enhydra Community Process
by Brett McLaughlin

Beg, Borrow, and Steal: Why Open Source is the only choice
by Brett McLaughlin