Welcome!

IBM Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Carmen Gonzalez, Elizabeth White

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
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...