Click here to close now.


@CloudExpo Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Marc Crespi, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan

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.

@CloudExpo Stories
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, will show how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants will get the download information, scripts, and complete en...
Containers are changing the security landscape for software development and deployment. As with any security solutions, security approaches that work for developers, operations personnel and security professionals is a requirement. In his session at @DevOpsSummit, Kevin Gilpin, CTO and Co-Founder of Conjur, will discuss various security considerations for container-based infrastructure and related DevOps workflows.
Containers are all the rage among developers and web companies, but they also represent two very substantial benefits to larger organizations. First, they have the potential to dramatically accelerate the application lifecycle from software builds and testing to deployment and upgrades. Second they represent the first truly hybrid-approach to consuming infrastructure, allowing organizations to run the same workloads on any cloud, virtual machine or physical server. Together, they represent a ver...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in high-performance, high-efficiency server, storage technology and green computing, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data ...
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on...
Achim Weiss is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of ProfitBricks. In 1995, he broke off his studies to co-found the web hosting company "Schlund+Partner." The company "Schlund+Partner" later became the 1&1 web hosting product line. From 1995 to 2008, he was the technical director for several important projects: the largest web hosting platform in the world, the second largest DSL platform, a video on-demand delivery network, the largest eMail backend in Europe, and a universal billing syste...
Between the compelling mockups and specs produced by analysts, and resulting applications built by developers, there exists a gulf where projects fail, costs spiral, and applications disappoint. Methodologies like Agile attempt to address this with intensified communication, with partial success but many limitations. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, will present a revolutionary model enabled by new technologies. Learn how busine...
Interested in leveraging automation technologies and a cloud architecture to make developers more productive? Learn how PaaS can benefit your organization to help you streamline your application development, allow you to use existing infrastructure and improve operational efficiencies. Begin charting your path to PaaS with OpenShift Enterprise.
IT data is typically silo'd by the various tools in place. Unifying all the log, metric and event data in one analytics platform stops finger pointing and provides the end-to-end correlation. Logs, metrics and custom event data can be joined to tell the holistic story of your software and operations. For example, users can correlate code deploys to system performance to application error codes.
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical...
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and containers together help companies achieve their business goals faster and more effectively. In his session at DevOps Summit, Ruslan Synytsky, CEO and Co-founder of Jelastic, will review the current landscape of...
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
As operational failure becomes more acceptable to discuss within the software industry, the necessity for holding constructive, actionable postmortems increases. But most of what we know about postmortems from "pop culture" isn't actually relevant for the software systems we work on and within. In his session at DevOps Summit, J. Paul Reed will look at postmortem pitfalls, techniques, and tools you'll be able to take back to your own environment so they will be able to lay the foundations for h...
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, will explore the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends an...
As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ability. Many are unable to effectively engage and inspire, creating forward momentum in the direction of desired change. Renowned for its approach to leadership and emphasis on their people, organizations increasingly look to our military for insight into these challenges.
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes ab...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading in...
DevOps Summit, taking place at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and Javits Center in New York City, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait...
As-a-service models offer huge opportunities, but also complicate security. It may seem that the easiest way to migrate to a new architectural model is to let others, experts in their field, do the work. This has given rise to many as-a-service models throughout the industry and across the entire technology stack, from software to infrastructure. While this has unlocked huge opportunities to accelerate the deployment of new capabilities or increase economic efficiencies within an organization, i...
For almost two decades, businesses have discovered great opportunities to engage with customers and even expand revenue through digital systems, including web and mobile applications. Yet, even now, the conversation between the business and the technologists that deliver these systems is strained, in large part due to misaligned objectives. In his session at DevOps Summit, James Urquhart, Senior Vice President of Performance Analytics at SOASTA, Inc., will discuss how measuring user outcomes –...