Agile Computing Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Kevin Benedict, Peter Silva, Carmen Gonzalez

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
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 smar...
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
In past @ThingsExpo presentations, Joseph di Paolantonio has explored how various Internet of Things (IoT) and data management and analytics (DMA) solution spaces will come together as sensor analytics ecosystems. This year, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Joseph di Paolantonio from DataArchon, will be adding the numerous Transportation areas, from autonomous vehicles to “Uber for containers.” While IoT data in any one area of Transportation will have a huge impact in that area, combining sensor...
Intelligent machines are here. Robots, self-driving cars, drones, bots and many IoT devices are becoming smarter with Machine Learning. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Sudha Jamthe, CEO of IoTDisruptions.com, will discuss the next wave of business disruption at the junction of IoT and AI, impacting many industries and set to change our lives, work and world as we know it.
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, discussed the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filterin...
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their backend AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT - especially in the connected home and office. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Kocher, founder and managing director of Grey Heron, explained how Amazon is extending its reach to become a major force in IoT by building on its dominant cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strat...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Streamlyzer will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Streamlyzer is a powerful analytics for video streaming service that enables video streaming providers to monitor and analyze QoE (Quality-of-Experience) from end-user devices in real time.
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Cloud based infrastructure deployment is becoming more and more appealing to customers, from Fortune 500 companies to SMEs due to its pay-as-you-go model. Enterprise storage vendors are able to reach out to these customers by integrating in cloud based deployments; this needs adaptability and interoperability of the products confirming to cloud standards such as OpenStack, CloudStack, or Azure. As compared to off the shelf commodity storage, enterprise storages by its reliability, high-availabil...
The IoT industry is now at a crossroads, between the fast-paced innovation of technologies and the pending mass adoption by global enterprises. The complexity of combining rapidly evolving technologies and the need to establish practices for market acceleration pose a strong challenge to global enterprises as well as IoT vendors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Clark Smith, senior product manager for Numerex, will discuss how Numerex, as an experienced, established IoT provider, has embraced a ...
The Internet of Things (IoT), in all its myriad manifestations, has great potential. Much of that potential comes from the evolving data management and analytic (DMA) technologies and processes that allow us to gain insight from all of the IoT data that can be generated and gathered. This potential may never be met as those data sets are tied to specific industry verticals and single markets, with no clear way to use IoT data and sensor analytics to fulfill the hype being given the IoT today.
Donna Yasay, President of HomeGrid Forum, today discussed with a panel of technology peers how certification programs are at the forefront of interoperability, and the answer for vendors looking to keep up with today's growing industry for smart home innovation. "To ensure multi-vendor interoperability, accredited industry certification programs should be used for every product to provide credibility and quality assurance for retail and carrier based customers looking to add ever increasing num...
“Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CloudBerry Backup is a leading cross-platform cloud backup and disaster recovery solution integrated with major public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, will discuss how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team a...
In the next forty months – just over three years – businesses will undergo extraordinary changes. The exponential growth of digitization and machine learning will see a step function change in how businesses create value, satisfy customers, and outperform their competition. In the next forty months companies will take the actions that will see them get to the next level of the game called Capitalism. Or they won’t – game over. The winners of today and tomorrow think differently, follow different...