I see lots of SOA books surrounding Java and have always had the subliminal notion that Java is the "right" language for robust/enterprisey SOA, even though I know what SOA involves and that it is perfectly possible using other languages & frameworks.

What exclusive traits Java has that other languages/platforms don't, that makes it so popular for SOAs?

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    I've build service oriented applications in PHP, Delphi, and Java, and (imho) the main reason for Java's popularity in the market is (was?) marketing. Nothing more, nothing less.
    – yannis
    Aug 28 '12 at 8:25
  • @YannisRizos My motivation for this question exactly, care to turn your comment into an answer? Aug 28 '12 at 8:57
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    Affinity for ESB's, SOAP, and all things that are XML and the marketing around them is what created this in my opinion. Things like -> mulesoft.org
    – Ben DeMott
    Aug 29 '12 at 6:50
  • @BenDeMott Could you add this as an answer with a little more elaboration?, I think this might be it. Aug 29 '12 at 16:35

What exclusive traits Java has that other languages/platforms don't, that makes it so popular for SOAs?

There's nothing much in Java itself that makes it especially suitable for SOAs. Sure, it offers garbage collection and dynamic code loading and the like, and they're all useful, but they're hardly unique features of Java.

What did make a difference though was the Enterprise Bean specification (which evolved into EJB and JEE). That was basically an adaptation of concepts that had been around for quite a long while in the big-iron space (transaction monitors, that sort of thing) to an OO model, together with the addition of statefulness so that certain types of models were a lot easier to express. The interesting thing is that EJB was a multi-vendor effort; yes, Sun promoted it a lot, but there were many commercial vendors that did implementations of it in their products quite early in the spec's lifecycle. That encouraged a lot of adoption; expertise in Java-based transaction monitors had suddenly become a nice transferrable skill.

Once that base had been established, it grew (e.g., with excellent SOAP tooling support, which superseded the use of CORBA in a lot of deployments) and that's really cemented Java in place. The thing that keeps Java as the king of the SOA space for now is the huge ecosystem of third-party libraries that make it easy to work in the area provided you use Java (or one of the other JVM-based languages, like Groovy or Scala). It's entirely possible to have such libraries in other languages, other environments — I'd expect C# and .NET to do fairly well on this metric — but you typically have to write a much larger fraction of the support layer yourself, and some of that is both tricky and boring to do well; leveraging Java makes a lot of sense if it is keeping you able to focus on the application's business logic and not the support framework.

In short, Java's good for SOA for you because it's good for SOA for many other people (and yes, that's self-reinforcing and sounds tautologous); it's the network effects.

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    Java's fussy predictability might also help; there's very little in the way of Undefined Behavior in the language, and you have to write everything out in full and at great length. I think that promotes ease of use by sub-Rock Star programmers, of whom there are quite a few… Aug 28 '12 at 21:47

Java was (and still is) simply the most popular language for the kind of application where the SOA concept is most attractive, i.e. heterogenous distributed and integrated systems with constantly shifting requirements aka "enterprise applications". So everyone was already using Java for such systems before SOA became a buzzword in exactly the same area.

As for the reason Java got so popular in that area, there's a lot of things that probably contributed: platform-independance, excellent cross-version compatibility, Sun's marketing budget and previous presence in the market (via Solaris and hardware), the focus on standardized APIs, being the first garbage collected and VM-based language to offer acceptable performance...

  • Yes, I know, but why is it popular for this? Aug 28 '12 at 8:19
  • @dukeofgaming: I've added what I think are the reason, but it's not something that can be proven. Aug 28 '12 at 8:23
  • Your question answers why Java is good, but not why Java is specially good for SOAs Aug 28 '12 at 8:53
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    @dukeofgaming You seem to think that large enterprises have some collective insight or plan with very clear reasons why Java was chosen, which is certainly not the case. There aren't any significant technological aspects of the Java stack that play into that decision. It is popular simply because Java has been popular and will remain so for a long time to come. It originally became popular for the reasons stated (very excellently I might add) in the answer above. Also large enterprises have a lot of Java legacy code, and internal Java talent. It just makes sense from a non-tech perspective.
    – maple_shaft
    Aug 28 '12 at 10:55
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    @maple_shaft Also, I can think of one wonderful quality the Java stack has: you can transition out of Java seamlessly - Scala, Clojure, Groovy, etc., while other stacks lock you to a particular language, forcing you to abandon the codebase as you transition out.
    – K.Steff
    Aug 28 '12 at 11:14

Simply because many of the first systems that were being connected using SOA techniques were in already built in Java. There's nothing inherit in Java that makes it a superior language for SOA solutions.

Some might argue that it's rich ecosystem of BDD/TDD frameworks and community around that helped build more robust SOA solutions, but then again I've seen plenty of terrible ones :-).

In short SOA is an architectural design pattern that is language agnostic.

  • My guess is that J2EE had a lot to do with it (both in terms of actual value added, and the "enterprise" word in the title). The whole ecosystem also seems to be oriented towards "as long as it implements standard, it's pluggable" versus the MS world of "if it doesn't come from the One True Source, we don't trust it".
    – Daniel B
    Aug 28 '12 at 10:24
  • @DanielB In the end though you still have corporations like IBM and Oracle which offer their own enterprise suites that many of their clients only trust as the one true source. I have yet to work for a corporation that simply trusted a Java framework or library because it implemented a standard. Java Enterprise suites are not so different from Microsoft in this regard.
    – maple_shaft
    Aug 28 '12 at 11:03
  • @maple_shaft my experience with the Java enterprise world is quite limited, it's just a general trend I've felt. Here on the MS side of things, 3rd party and community developed code is often treated with disdain. Even with recent events (open-sourcing of various frameworks, etc), this culture exists.
    – Daniel B
    Aug 28 '12 at 11:35

It's just everyone else is doing SOA without explicitly naming it so, without strict formalizing etc. People build RESTful services and back-end using message queues without mentioning "SOA" even once. The keywords are rather "loose coupling" or "web services".

On the other hand it seems, that in Java world there's a need for buzzword (or rather buzz-acronym) for everything, every design pattern, every architecture etc. Thus so many books where Java and SOA are mentioned together.


Java IDEs and annotations make it easy to create web services. So anyone who wants to learn about SOA and web services tends to run into a lot of Java-based tutorials (likely where your "subliminal notion" came from), and anyone who wants to get their feet wet with some simple service implementation gets quick gratification from experimenting with Java. I don't think that Java is "better" than other languages at SOA, but it's arguably easier to get started using SOA with Java.

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