Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Paul Simmons, Liz McMillan, Ed Featherston

Related Topics: IBM Cloud, Java IoT, Release Management

IBM Cloud: Blog Post

Java vs C++? Really?

This is only part of the question

The question that is often posed in one rhetorical flourish or another is this: Which is better (faster, more efficient, blah blah blah...) Java or C++? The question that is really not being asked is: for what? Selecting a programming language is not like selecting a dinner suit; you are not going to be asking the question that frequently. In fact, this question is more like deciding on a business plan rather than simply selecting a tool from the tool box.

The reality is that the only people that would really ask this question are those that:

  1. Are just at the beginning of planning a software effort that will become the basis of a business or business group that has yet to be established.
  2. Have a full grasp of and can support apps made with either language
  3. Are writers of articles or blogs
  4. Have a burning desire to vindicate their own personal preference.

If you are a business and you have a software project that is just starting, there are a number of questions that will be asked before deciding on a programming language. In fact, I am about 110% certain that the question of which programming language to use almost never comes up. Why? Because business managers are going to use the language that their staff knows the best and that the company can best maintain. The only time it would even come into question is if there is some deep need that only a particular language can fulfill. For example: if you needed detailed interaction with the native operating system or hardware you would probably want to use C/C++. If, instead, you needed software that managed a lot of user interactive data with a short lifespan and the runtime environment was ambiguous, you may choose Java.

I can tell you from experience that software decisions become business culture in every business that is serious about the use of computers. If the business decided in the past that C/C++ was the way to go I can assure you that they will not ask that question again unless their current staff cannot produce a satisfactory product for the currently proposed project. It really doesn't matter if one is n milliseconds faster during this operation or that. What matters is using the staff on hand to produce, test and maintain the product.

In every comparison I've seen, the question comes down to performance. but we are at  the point of comparing milliseconds and thus we are in realm of the silly comparisons for most applications. That level of performance really only matters when there are no other performance bottlenecks and where the difference would actually be perceptible (i.e., a 3d interactive adventure game or crunching huge amounts of scientific data). C/C++ was the first programming language I learned but I have been using Java since it became available. The performance comparisons started almost immediately...and it was ridiculous. Java was not originally meant to take over the computing world. It was meant to provide a more feature-rich internet experience. As a web tool, it was also intended to be easy. "Easy" means squishing all the hard stuff into automatic function or succinct APIs. Clearly, Java has come a long way since then and is used for much more. Its platform agnosticism has enabled rapid development of software for all kinds of hardware, leaving (most of) the low-level headaches for the JVM writers. What has actually happened is that Java was chosen for all kinds of good reasons regardless of performance (which was never comparable) and the JVM writers and hardware technology have made the performance discussion effectively irrelevant in most cases.

One part of the comparison debate that has always troubled me was that C/C++ and Java are not equal. C/C++ is a programming language with a rudimentary API (the C Runtime). The operating systems are not designed to accommodate the language and most of the feature-rich class libraries are third-party offerings. Java is more than just the language. It is the common platform (JVM) and it is the enormous class library that simplifies some rather complex low-level tasks, like socket management or stream IO.

The strength (and arguably a weakness) of C/C++ is that it is so fundamental that it is extremely versatile. C/C++ makes relatively few assumptions about how the software will be ultimately be constructed. Ultimately, C/C++ will be compiled to run as close to te machine as the machine allows. Java has many assumptions about the code construction. In fact, it mandates quite a bit. If you don't understand the Java way you are going to have a hard time. Therefore, Java has less flexibility overall. However, the Java way tends to be a good way and although certain architectural decisions are not negotiable, it usually provides a good way to get just about anything you need done and done in a pretty good way. Between that and the JVM specification, Java provides a consistent and clean way of writing software for multiple platforms and with a rotating pool of developers.

If it sounds like I am not making a clear comparison it is because I am not. I don't think that it is an apples-to-apples comparison. In my personal projects, I carefully consider which language I use, whether it will be C/C++, Java or even PHP for that matter. As with anything, I think about where I want to go and then determine how I want to get there. If you follow the C++ road to where it naturally takes you it is a different place than where Java naturally takes you. Sure they can overlap and sure you ride Java or C++ anywhere, but why? Well, in a business environment the whys are plentiful. As a technical lead or manager I am going to think more about getting it done for the least cost and with the fewest future maintenance problems. I am going to use my existing staff and make the most of their expertise. I am not going to create a new management division of development, design, test, build and support for a few milliseconds unless I absolutely have to. And really, unless I am in the business of writing wholly custom software for many different customers with completely different needs, I am most likely not going to be creating new software that departs all that radically from products I have already produced.

As fun as entertaining comparison discussions between C/C++ and Java are (obviously fun enough to inspire me to write this) they are really not practical except under the most unusual circumstances. That decision is made by the inventor of an idea that was probably already inspired during the use of one of the two in the first place. Businesses may consider the choice at the very beginning but as the business culture grows around its offerings the discussion becomes less and less relevant. You may choose the tools that best suit that initial design or outcome but after that, the tools tend to dictate where you go from there, whether it be who you hire or what new feature you add or even what markets you seek. However, as a musing of fancy for journal readers it is most valuable.

More Stories By Scott Quint

Scott Quint has been at IBM since 1996. He's been a developer, Lead Engineer, Chief Engineer, Quality Assurance Lead and Designer, Senior Consultant and Project Manager. Most recently Scott was a Lead Engineer for WebSphere Virtual Enterprise and is now a Cloud Computing Technology Evangelist.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
kvorak 02/05/10 03:47:00 PM EST

Finally... somebody agrees. The reason people can't answer this question objectively is because it's the WRONG QUESTION, lol. Well said.

@ThingsExpo Stories
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smart...
Headquartered in Plainsboro, NJ, Synametrics Technologies has provided IT professionals and computer systems developers since 1997. Based on the success of their initial product offerings (WinSQL and DeltaCopy), the company continues to create and hone innovative products that help its customers get more from their computer applications, databases and infrastructure. To date, over one million users around the world have chosen Synametrics solutions to help power their accelerated business or per...
Founded in 2000, Chetu Inc. is a global provider of customized software development solutions and IT staff augmentation services for software technology providers. By providing clients with unparalleled niche technology expertise and industry experience, Chetu has become the premiere long-term, back-end software development partner for start-ups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies. Chetu is headquartered in Plantation, Florida, with thirteen offices throughout the U.S. and abroad.
In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and ...
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
"We are a well-established player in the application life cycle management market and we also have a very strong version control product," stated Flint Brenton, CEO of CollabNet,, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
Most people haven’t heard the word, “gamification,” even though they probably, and perhaps unwittingly, participate in it every day. Gamification is “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation.” Further, gamification is about bringing game mechanics – rules, constructs, processes, and methods – into the real world in an effort to engage people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Endo, owner and engagement manager of Intrepid D...
Recently, WebRTC has a lot of eyes from market. The use cases of WebRTC are expanding - video chat, online education, online health care etc. Not only for human-to-human communication, but also IoT use cases such as machine to human use cases can be seen recently. One of the typical use-case is remote camera monitoring. With WebRTC, people can have interoperability and flexibility for deploying monitoring service. However, the benefit of WebRTC for IoT is not only its convenience and interopera...
Michael Maximilien, better known as max or Dr. Max, is a computer scientist with IBM. At IBM Research Triangle Park, he was a principal engineer for the worldwide industry point-of-sale standard: JavaPOS. At IBM Research, some highlights include pioneering research on semantic Web services, mashups, and cloud computing, and platform-as-a-service. He joined the IBM Cloud Labs in 2014 and works closely with Pivotal Inc., to help make the Cloud Found the best PaaS.
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader Sergey Grebnov provided an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
Personalization has long been the holy grail of marketing. Simply stated, communicate the most relevant offer to the right person and you will increase sales. To achieve this, you must understand the individual. Consequently, digital marketers developed many ways to gather and leverage customer information to deliver targeted experiences. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lou Casal, Founder and Principal Consultant at Practicala, discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated our abilit...
In his session at Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, presented a success story of an entrepreneur who has both suffered through and benefited from offshore development across multiple businesses: The smart choice, or how to select the right offshore development partner Warning signs, or how to minimize chances of making the wrong choice Collaboration, or how to establish the most effective work processes Budget control, or how to maximize project result...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, discussed the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docker c...