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Top Reasons Why People Think Java Un-Cool - Debunked
Top Reasons Why People Think Java Un-Cool - Debunked

Paul Graham's Great Hackers essay has really touched a lot of people's nerves. The wires are choked with people giving their point of view.

Yet again, though, I have had to stop and think - what is it about Java that makes people brand it as the most un-cool language on earth? I have had friends look at me like I was a poor sod for "having to" develop in Java. So, let me list all the reasons I can think why people consider Java un-cool.

Java has considerably fewer surprises and prefers not to add complexity to the language for rarely used features thereby resulting in a language where you cannot really make your friends go ga-ga at amazingly brief programming constructs. You need to write something substantial [like Gosling's Huckster] for them be to impressed with your programming abilities and not your language knowledge. This is probably the biggest reason Java is un-cool. It's too easy (although programming or software development remains as tough as ever). Java was always touted as the language that the "average" IT programmer can use. It's such a language-for-the-masses that yet again, it fails the "geek" test. And if you use Java, so do you.

Java has been considered slow for ages. The earlier allegations (1995) were true. However, with the recent advancements in the JVMs from Sun and IBM, Java runs pretty close to C/C++. Check this benchmark. Contrary to this, there are other benchmarks that prove that Java is slower. All considered, it would be fair to say that Java cannot be considered "slow" anymore, yet its stuck with the label.
How cool is to be the jock with the second fastest race-car in the block?

Swing disasters continue to give Java a bad name. Swing is a brilliant, although hard to learn, API. But the vast majority of Swing applications are so bad that they give Swing and therefore Java a bad name.

Java is a strongly typed language therefore you have to tell the compiler exactly what you intend to use. And if you make a mistake in the way you use it, the compiler has the guts to tell you that you were wrong. Too much chaperoning?

Java has a vast library that is available to all Java developers without any ambiguity. Thus, if you wrote yet another Map you would not be considered a data structures guru by Java programmers but a guy who hasn't heard of java.util.*.

Java did not have a good IDE that compared with MS Visual Studio. I think this one was true. I am not so sure it is any more with IntelliJ. The absence of good tools probably pushed away a lot of good programmers.

Java is popular. Anything that is popular has lost its elite status and therefore is not cool.

Java is an application programming platform. You cannot do cool things like device drivers and games, etc (until recently - but Java gaming is coming in a big way).

About Sachin Hejip
Sachin Hejip, an architect with Sonic Software, is currently part of Sonic's ESB tooling intiative where he is leading a team of engineers develop Eclipse plug-ins to take Sonic ESB development to the next level. A recipient of Pramati's highest award for technical excellence, the Pramati Fellowship, he has been a core member of the Pramati engineering team where he led the Web Server intiative and has been a key member of the Pramati Studio R&D team. He has a keen interest in development tools and was the architect of the IDE's parser framework, which formed the base of his implementation of the code completion and Java/J2EE Refactoring tool set. He has designed and developed Pramati's paradigm of J2EE development called "Express Development" including the server-agnostic deployment framework.

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Reader Feedback: Page 6 of 7

I have been using Java since 1995 and every now and then someone or the other comments that Java is un-cool, blah, blah. These guys have nothing better to do. Why not utilise your energies to develop a COOL language?

This sort of defensive article is troubling. Usually "it isn''t as bad a people say it is" articles in trade rags signal that a technology is passed its growth (eg: unrealistic hype) phase and is in decline from a new adopters point of view.

There is also another similar article this month saying how Java is back:

The thing is, I wasn''t aware it had left. Is Java in decline? If so what''s replacing it? I haven''t heard much hype about dot net lately either, but maybe I''m reading the wrong magazines.

Anyone who worries about how cool they are has less of a life than the normal geek. Java is a great language. Maybe the plethora of badly integrated or badly thought out extensions make it spaghetti. But the language utself is easy to leanr and good at its job. If you find Java hard, go and join the children playing with scripting languages. Leave programming to the grown-ups.

First, programming, programmers, and programming languages are not cool - never have been, never will be. I think that point was missed. Pro-skateboarders, rock stars - that''s where society goes to find "cool." If your self-esteem hinges in any way on your programming language, you may be in for a rocky ride in life. Take care about saying things like "haskell is cool" on a subway. I wish the article had chosen words like "well-designed", "parsimonious", etc. But, perhaps therein lies the point - the word "cool" was chosen because it was considered the right word....

Second, it''s all about the money. That''s the Java thing. What it actually does doesn''t really matter: it''s what the e-business community thinks it does that pays the bills. I, personally, enter and exit academia whenever i feel the need for intellectual nutrition; but, Java is the buzzword that the bots are searching for: imagine pusing a reume that has LIFE or Miranda at the top of the list. Really...

So, this discussion, I''m sure, is a revelation for the generation of programmers who were raised solely on Java - especially those people who aren''t really programmers, but just jumped on the gravy train with a night course or two. For the programming community at large, the point is moot - Java ain''t "it". But, like I said, tell that to your head-hunter, and start to love doing dishes during the day and slinging hostilites on you usenet at night.

Let''s see....

Java is slow. Slower than compiled C, yes. But I''ll take write once and run (almost) anywhere all day over a speed disadvantage that with today''s hardware is largely meaningless. Do you really think your users care whether that use case took 400 milliseconds or 200?

Java is strongly typed. Yes and that''s a good thing. What could be better than a hardworking compiler finding your bugs? If people want loose typing, then they should stick with toy languages.

Java has a vast library. No arguments there beats every language on the planet from that standpoint. And the open source community is vast and continuously creating really powerful extensions.

Swing is a disaster. Absolutely agreed. Worst UI programming paradigm I have every seen. Awkward constructs, heavy resource utilization, slow, clunky. 90+% of the UI using world run Windows PC''s. Why on earth would you use anything other than .NET/MFC/VB to build Windows applications? It''s all about using the right tool for the job. God knows we need another e-mail client.

No good IDE''s. Hmmmm. Ever hear of a little something called Eclipse? And if you think you need to pay for a good IDE, Borland will be happy to take your money and give you JBuilder.

Elegance. One of the best OO languages ever conceived. Usually the people that complain about Java are either procedural hacks who don''t understand OO programming in the first place. If you trully understand how to employ the recommended design patterns in solving problems, the code writes itself.

Verbosity. Not sure what people mean by this. As the world''s laziest programmer, I have yet to find myself thinking that Java was making me write too much code to solve a problem.

Primative types and collections. No longer an issue. Not sure it ever was an issue. Need an int use an int. Need an Integer use an Integer. Confused why a collection of objects actually requires that its membership be made up of objects rather than primatives? Stick to Visual Basic.

No longer geeky and cool. Unfortunately many programmers derive their self worth from that which they know versus what others do not. Given the ubiquity of Java, these folks undoubtedly find it lacking in value and uncool. For the rest of us that derive our self worth from that which we create, coolest thing on the planet.

Anyway, just my 0.02.

> This statement also makes little sense. How can something be un-cool and popular? Or cool and unpopular?

Very easily - think about windows. It is extreemly popular but I wouldn''t say its ''cool'' - certainly not in the techie world. Popularity is a grade against its competing peers (eg: windows vs linux vs other operating systems) and Cool is a current trend against your social setting (eg: cool clothes to 40 year olds will be different to cool clothes to 20 year olds, but popular clothes will be common across the board).

> And please remember, we are talking about a toolset to get the job done, not popular culture, so I doubt anyone would change programming language, just because it became popular.

I beg to disagree. With the arrival of .NET I know many Java programmers who have rushed to learn C# in depth and develop in .NET so that their CV is more appealing - all because .NET and C# became buzz words. It depends on the reasons you are using a programming language and why you are a programmer by trade in the first place.

Java vs Others is an ever on going debate and anyone with a thinking mind will know that there are many valid perspectives in regard to Java and its place in ? (Aha, this is where the troubles begin) Java''s place in where?.

In the world of programming purity, for Java there are probably two camps, one that views Java as an inellegant language with several impure compromises & camp two those who debate & push for improvements to the language (Java) that they have to, or have chosen to, work with and who realise that they can earn a reasonable living programming with it.

The Ease of learning & Use perspective. Java has one very big advantage here. The volume of publications & tutorials & adoptions by Universities, of Java, guarantees it is only as hard to learn as someone wants to make it. Truly, Java is comparatively easy, not because of any great ''elegance'' but because of the educational support. Contrast Java''s wealth of good documentation and education materials with the absolute lack of documentation on Smalltalk. Smalltalk was and is a great language, arguably far more elegant than Java, but try to teach yourself Smalltalk in any depth and you will quickly learn why it requires being ''mentored''.

In its early days, Java set out to achieve a goal. The famous ''write once, run anywhere'' or WORA. To a very large degree Java achieved this although there is lots of debate as to how well it gets done. One reality here is that there were market forces (yes that ugly reality) that were bent of ''polluting'' Java & thus worked against Java having an easy path to the WORA nirvana. However, a big org within those anti forces seem to have decided it was time to jump aboard the Java express train & so WORA may become even more attainable than it is today.

As for speed. This argument makes as much sense as those people who poo-poohed interpreted Visual Basic running on Intel AT PCs with clock speeds in the 20 to 66 Mhz range.
Lack of horsepower for an interpreted language is very relative in in Java''s case was mostly relative to the amount of propaganda its opponents could squeeze from the argument. Using today''s PCs with GHZ clock speeds makes a complete mockery of the speed argument for most computing uses.

Now speaking for myself. At my company we are a Java shop. However when I prototype most tasks I do so with Visual Age Smalltalk but I flatly refuse to endorse putting anything I produce into production for one simple reason. We know only too well how hard it is to get good smalltalk programmers and so I hand my work over to a Java team who replicated it in Java. I could use Java but I still find the IDEs primitive & less productive to what I can do in Smalltalk so it is my personal choice to prototype in that language.

Java is a reality. It is in widespread use, it is easy to get and easy to learn and can meet almost all business needs without putting the business at risk.

Doug Marker (Technical Architect)

I do think Java is cool and solves many issues such as memory leaks and portability... well, so do other scripting languages and often much faster and with better memory management.

UI in Java simply sucks. Swing (and other APIs actually) are well designed from a concept point of view but, practically, you need to hack them significantly to get decent performances. For our multimedia apps, we wasted lots of time understanding why our products were slow... at the end, we redevelopped all graphics, streaming and even part of memory management in native. Now we can truly say we have native performance using Java but, of course, a purist would say that''s cheating.

"Java runs as fast as C++" is just comparing cycles and franckly it is meamingless today. What about the amount of memory used by the JVM, what about the number of threads the JVM uses, what about the number of objects created for so many simple tasks (talk about java.util.* some algo are really bad) etc.? If you are on a big PC, plenty of memory, big CPU you probably don''t worry too much but if you use low-end processors/embedded systems with limited resources... suddenly Java is a completely different story. In fact, look at the number of JSRs that are just about Java used as a simple interface but the real work is done in native. And in this case, how much of Java API is needed? Not much. Clearly, for serious/real applications, Java is becoming more like a scripting language.

As for IDEs, Java has very good ones andI don''t see why this would be an argument for a developer... But ironically, for years, Java fathers did a very bad job with NetBeans.

So, Java is a great language but to do something with it isn''t as easy or even cool. It is easy to master the language but it''ll take you months of research to realize a demanding product (and mind you potentially some re-architectures!). From this point of view, I prefer C/C++, yes it''s harder to learn but it''s somewhat easier to do real development and sometimes in much less time.

Interesting. And what business issue is addressed here. I had to upgrade my application (with mega frustration) every time Microsoft upgraded their operating system because I thought it was cool to use (some specific) device drivers from the MS dll?s. The third time of frustration I switched to Java, which happened to be my last option as well (and incidentally be my first, next time).

Analyze the business requirements (no analysis paralysis here), define the business logic and objects, translate that into the target language (I prefer Java because of it?s platform independence, since I do not have the luxury of time to change code every time the O/S changes). A well defined/structured approach (or simply put, a decent methodology) is required and the business value is enormous. This reduced my overall development cost (in time and money) and I have a business application that is portable across platforms (which I never had in the past). Business love this, because they could switch to Linux, further reducing operational and capital expenditure. It is about money, growth, etc. and not about being cool or not. It is about what works and what does not work for business. Get that?

Coolness aside, the success of Java is driven mostly by the productivity improvements. I have been around long enough to rememeber "#ifdef UNIX...." or "#ifdef MSDOS...." blocks in the C/C++ code. Back then it was impossible to deliver the software product, which would run at any platform (or say "just" Win32, MacOS and CICS), with a small team or with limited budget. Java has made it possible for our team at MetaBoss to use "write once - run anywhere" policy and I can not really see any other serious alternative to it.

And lets not forget good old memory leaks...

Why do I care about what Paul Graham thinks? If Java solves the problems I am trying to solve, it''s a good thing and Paul''s opinion matters not. Any programming environment has tradeoffs. In my case, Java was not my first option, it was my last. I ended up working in Java only after I hit show-stoppers in all of the other mainstream environments. For my project, Java was the only environment that could do what I needed to do in a straightforward, maintainable way way. So, unless Paul is going to do my work for me, his preferences and opinions could not be more irrelevant.

Java is not cool, it does not try to be. It is successful because of the huge effort Sun and others have put into it. The value comes from portability and integrating some of the ideas from the cool languages.

The Java language has decent performance, the UI libraries do not. Comparing Java2D to Quartz Extreme Java is about 2.5x slower! Getting good performance out of large applications is harder in Java than many other languages. While most users of Java are willing to buy bigger iron, that does not change its performance.

The biggest issue with Java is verbosity. In the name of readability it is hard to write. Many studies have shown that any programmer will produce about the same number of bug-free lines of code per unit time. And the strong typing makes an IDE far more critical than in some other languages. An ActionListener uses method X while an ItemListener uses method Y when both are really the same pattern! The use of inner classes rather than blocks makes Java as much as 2x slower to write for this type of stuff. Slower to write means it costs more to develope.

Many of the features of Java are a step ahead from C or C++, but much better can be done. Some work is being done to build better languages on the JVM which will address some of the issues, but some of the issues are built into the JVM.

The industry problem moving forward is "who is going to drive the next language?" What concern will be able to fund the development of a new language that has comercial viability? It seems we are doomed to live with niche languages going forward.

Java has had great IDEs for several years now.

Jave is a more or less very beautiful language.

Unfortunately there are too many issues with deploying Java applications.

Who cares if it''s "cool" or not... if they''d just provide a native code compiler so we could deploy native code rather than dealing with all the hassle of supplying a JVM or teaching our customers to install a JVM. I''m tired of dealing with these issues.

When I switched to Java development after years of C/C++ development it was so liberating. Development in Java goes so much faster, there are much fewer bugs, and finding the bugs there are is much easier. All that and I can develop for the all the major platforms in one go. That''s cool.

what you get from java is very little compared with what you get from other languages for the same effort or investment of time

contrary to some of the comments, java is neither simple or easy to learn compared to other languages

its only desirability is its freedom from platform

hmmm ...

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jhook wrote: Java is cool, but I'm tired of having to learn 5 different ways of doing one thing. Not only playing a guessing game of possible solutions, but once picking a solution, books tell you to wrap the solution up in a facade, adding more complexity to your application. That's not to say that patterns are patterns, in any language, but with .Net you are left with the confidence of a strong single leader, Microsoft. Sun and Java, on the other hand, is led by commitee. Smart people are tossing API's out there left and right that are nothing more than ideas-- J2EE for example. Again, I'm left with picking a vendor/solution. With Microsoft, things are pretty much set in stone via the tools they provide. This is how .Net handles MVC, this is how .Net handles Database access, this is how .Net cooks a turkey. I would feel more confident know that our implementation was written on a single st...
Serguei Bakhteiarov wrote: I think (as Wittgenstein too :-) that the "languages defines your mindset". This applies to programming languages as well. However, judging is the language tool or not is sort of meaningless, because "underneath" it is still, well a bitcode. So from this stand point any computer language is a tool. Mixing the tools (languages) to produce bitcode is perfectly fine and it happens all the time, especially in "big" projects :-) cheers, serge
tim wrote: I think Ivan's comments (14 September 2004) are not correct. (Or maybe irrelavent?) "Why so many people think, that programming languages are tools? Programming languages are aptly named *languages*: they form your way of thinking." If your choice of language forms your way of thinking, perhaps you aren't working from the abstract solution first... And, while it is true that "When you are solving a software problem in a medium to big project, you most often cannot change the languge in the middle of the project."--there are a lot of other things you can't change, too. However, in Java projects, sometimes it is necessary to solve a problem with another language/tool, such as C, and invoke it with native interface. Or, even more common, one also programs in SQL, XML, XSLT, Javascript, etc. all within the same project...many languages...many tools, the right tool for the right...
Ivan wrote: Why so many people think, that programming languages are tools? Programming languages are aptly named *languages*: they form your way of thinking. When you are solving a software problem in a medium to big project, you most often cannot change the languge in the middle of the project. You have to solve it *in* Java or *in* C# or whatever language the project is written in. Tools are not like that. You start to search for the best tool to solve the problem, and not thinking to yourself "should I hammer it from the front or from the back side?" Nor you try to build the whole building with a jigsaw. So, programming languages are more unlike tools in your toolbox.
Darren wrote: Please excuse the rants on my last post. Paul's essay touched a nerve. It doesn't matter if Java is cool or not. It doesn't matter what tools you use as long as you are still creating something wonderful. Mr Graham should know this if he considers himself an authority on hackers. If he doesn't, its his loss.
Darren Pye wrote: I would really like to see Paul's resume. It sounds to me like he has no experience in the real world working on anything other then small simple problems. That's not great programming, thats hobbyist coding. He seems to have had a very cushy and narrowly focused set of projects and problems that he has dealt with. In that scenario...SOME of what he said is valid. The Disney land he describes could work. But what about the real world with real complex problems to solve? With his beliefs I find it almost impossible to believe he has had any real part in solving a serious software problem. Oddly, his views remind me of my own back in the early 80's. I was a hobbyist programmer considered a wizard among my peers, with an ideal of the perfect working environment. However, I was working on small finite (and now that I know better, simple problems)...then I turned 12 and starte...
Rajitha wrote: Even I feel this a pointless discussion. With my experience what I feel is, no language is similar. Each one is strong on its own areas and there are applications where one can perform to the most and others not. So comparing a language with another language is completely pointless.
perrin wrote: Java is verbose, pushed by totally uncool corporate goons, and not open source. Duh. However, Graham's criticisms, while funny, are almost completely wrong. There are lots of good hackers using Java, and all you need to do to see this is look at the open source Java community. There is a willingness among them to admit that some problems are actually complex and are not best solved by writing three lines of code (often in a bizarre newly-invented syntax). I find this acknowledgement somewhat lacking among many Perl programmers who I meet.
Tom wrote: Java is a ver cool simply from the aspect that it brought a new paradigm to the forefront. The lofty ambition of being able to write once and run anywhere was achieved with the exception of little quirks here and there. The defragmentation of the JVM from the published standards killed the WORA process - that is not the fault of Java but of the JVM writers. The simple fact that it can cause such an uproar from those both for and against the language/platform is a tribute to how cool it really is. Remember, it is just a tool, not for everyone or every situation, but like any tool, when used properly it will do the job in a most satisfactory way. Good computing everyone.....
Gregg Saffell wrote: I taught Java to undergraduate business students last year and was surprised to learn the extent to which C# was perceived as being easier to learn. I think the ease of finding, downloading, and installing the JVM and an IDE along with the learning curve associated with the IDE were the main culprits. Microsoft had made all of the above very easy for the university and students whereas the Java side required a good deal more effort on the part of the teacher and the students. For Java to be a "cool" technology beyond the world of computer specialists, a lot more will have to be done to flatten out the learning curves of both the language and a free IDE. Do you realize how much you have to master just to be able to write even a console oriented Hello World program? Until an application of at least minimal complexity can be implemented easily by a novice, the rest of the world is no...
Kripal Singh wrote: look at the long list of comments . java has maximum number of followers and is think it has beaten c++/c/c# .
Mark Watson wrote: Is Java a little un-cool? Sure. So what. I love doing server side Java. Is Java my favorite language? No. That would probably be Common Lisp. The thing is, for most of the work that I do, Java has several advantages: Great free platform support for web presentation, SOAP, XML-RPC, asynchronous messaging (JMS), etc. There are many skilled Java programmers: when I build a system for a customer, I can feel confident that maintenance will not be a problem. Common Lisp has advantages also (extremely fast compiled code, small runtime overhead, rich standard library, very terse language) for some types of development (I use Lisp for working on algorithms, natural language processing, and other problems where I am breaking new ground - Lisp is great for experimental programming).
Ivan wrote: Practically, every big and most medium-sized java programs I''ve seen, use code generation. For example, GUI builders, persistence frameworks, etc. Code generators have the following problems: * They are hard to write. You will make a code generator only if the only alternative is to "generate" the code manually. * They don''t work well with other code generators: you cannot have a persistent GUI class for example. (I know, it''s a silly example, you''d want to make only the model persistent, etc. but the argument is still valid, I''m just to lazy to come up with better example :)). * Code generators don''t work well with the IDE. The IDE will know only about the generated code, and not about the *source*. This is partly because IDEs in Java have code generators on their own (sometimes called "wizards"). So, why does Java needs code generators that badly? Because it l...
Ralph Mack wrote: Ultimately, end users of application software care about one thing: - From where I am, I tell it to do what I want and it _just works_. This goes for acquisition, installation, invoking a program, accessing a web site, running a program, or making it go away. Post it up on your wall. Whatever you have been told, after all the supervisors, managers, marketers, salesmen, pundits, and other superfluous personnel are out of breath, and there''s just you and your user left standing, this is all that really matters. So what makes it "just work"? How does Java fare? * The existence of machines that ship without a JVM and the requisite base libraries give it a poor score for install. * The slow load time on application startup definitely hurts. * The programming model prevents most memory leaks, a major cause of the kind of C/C++ program failures that cause users to follow th...
Matt wrote: To debunk the question of whether Java is un-cool, you need a handle on what cool is. The popular view is that cool is one of those Zen-like notions that ceases to be cool once you define it. Taking a decidedly un-cool approach, I typed in "what is cool?" in Google. It came back with a dozen or so definitions it found on the web. I think this one nails it: "A term which is used entirely too often on the Internet." Is Java un-cool? With millions of developers, it''s easy to make the case that it''s popular. With the collective experiences from the Java community, it''s not difficult to argue that it is a great language for improving productivity and maintainability. Java **was** cool when it came out in 1995. Does that make it cool now? I think not.
Mike Monagle wrote: If Java was cool, this web site would be run on Java and not Cold Fusion.
tim d wrote: I read Graham''s stuff...seems kind of silly, wasn''t sure if it was a joke or serious stuff. Who cares about what HACKERs want/like? What about SOFTWARE ENGINEERS? I work on a huge application that would be impossible in Python but Java makes it possibly--and with less bugs than C++ would give us, by far. I was a C++ developer for YEARS and now after 2 1/2 years of JAVA, I hope I don''t ever have to go back...Java isn''t COOL--it''s BETTER. (Of course, there are some things we still have to do with C/C++...but we''ll live with those.)
jay_sdk wrote: I actually really like Java, cool or uncool. I write shell scripts for common tasks/utilities on Unix, use Perl where it gets a little more complicated or I need something that takes input, modifies it and puts it somewhere else. Started Java in ''97 when it was mostly used for silly applets. But most of my job consists of web-applications. With the WORA I can write it on a workstation/desktop whether on Win2K laptop, or Linux workstation, or whatever, and still deploy without problems to any target application server on pretty much any platform. I can see benefits in EJBs if you''re going to deploy against load-balanced massive systems of say 100+ servers, but just using servlets, JSPs and JavaBeans I can drop it all in a single WAR and deploy as many times by ftp-ing it to the server. In TomCat that''s enough, for those commercial ones I may have to register it once in an admin...
David Bueche wrote: People need to spend less time worrying about looking "cool" and more time getting the job done--regardless of which language they use. Regardless of how "cool" you look today and which language you use today, you WILL be using something different in a handful of years, whether a different language or a shovel.
craig wrote: coolness != good language coolness is about doing things like: - low level memory manipulation; because only a cool programmer would ever even know why you would want to do this. - Write really tight, very fast algorithms. I agree that java is faster to write code in, but coolness is related to having complete control over your computer or being the latest trend. Assembler / C / C++ are still cool because the allow this. .NET is cool because it is the new kid on the block. Business efficiency is a totally different question than coolness. Java was cool in the 90s because it made the web come alive, worked well with internet technologies, etc. Other languages appear to be catching up, and java has reached the masses. There is nothing unique about java that continues to make it cool; productive and useful yes, but productive no.
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Using new techniques of information modeling, indexing, and processing, new cloud-based systems can support cloud-based workloads previously not possible for high-throughput insurance, banking, and case-based applications. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, John Newton, CTO, Founder an...
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