Redhat unveil new programming language ‘Ceylon’ to compete with Java

16 April, 2011

Redhat has unveiled strategic new programming language named Ceylon in a bid to complement or may even compete with Java language. The invention of the new programming language had been kept as a top secret of Red Hat which ultimately unveiled by Gavin King on the verge of the traditional New Year day of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is formerly known as Ceylon.

Redhat is no stranger for Open Source community. RedHat Linux enterprise server is one of the most popular UNIX servers for Enterprise level hosting. Redhat’s Open Source JBoss server is the most popular Java based Enterprise Server.

Choose of name – Ceylon
Sri Lanka is world famous for tea, popularly known as Ceylon Tea. It may well be a strategic decision of Redhat cooperation to name their new language as Ceylon. Java was branded with Coffee. With the advent of new programming language 'Ceylon', it is now a battle or complement between Coffee Vs Tea, the Java Vs Ceylon. In other words,  developers now have two flavors for code, that is coffee or tea.

Selection of name Ceylon may be compared with IBM’s decision to name world famous Java IDE as “Eclipse”. It was widely believed that name Eclipse (which cover Sun) is offensive for Sun Microsystems that developed Java language. The selection of the name “Ceylon” is not as aggressive as Eclipse, but certainly in competitive ground.

Ceylon was one of the key countries in historical “Silk Road” connecting China and Europe. Tropical Sri Lanka is famous as Perl of the Indian Ocean. After defeating terrorism, Sri Lanka is now preparing for leap forward in Economy. It is in the same week that Sri Lankan president was elected among top 10 in most influential person of the year contest conducted by "Time" magazine. Many predict that Sri Lanka will be the nerve center of new world order of Rising Asia. So selecting name Ceylon and announcing it in China may have been well thought out too. 

Not a Java-killer?
When Ceylon first started receiving attention among Java bloggers and the press following King's presentation; it was perceived as an effort to replace Java. King has attempted to clear up the misunderstanding by explaining that it's merely intended as an alternative, much like the existing third-party JVM languages.

There are some major ongoing disputes between various Java stakeholders regarding JCP governance issues and control of the language. It's tempting to speculate about the potential for independent forks and such, but that is not at all what Ceylon is about. It's still fundamentally a JVM-based language and is designed to inter operate with the rest of the existing Java ecosystem.

Red Hat, much like IBM, has already elected to stand behind Oracle's stewardship of the Java platform in order to avoid fragmentation. Red Hat is obviously frustrated to some extent with the slow pace of Java's evolution and some of the long-standing technical limitations. Ceylon is a way to bypass the bureaucracy and give developers the option of moving forward, but it's not a power play to displace Oracle's control over Java.

Secret mission
Red Hat engineer Gavin King, the creator of Hibernate, has been developing the new programming language for enterprise software development. Gavin King is no stranger to Enterprise Java community for inventing “Hibernate Framework” which was widely accepted by the community. The Java Persistence API was highly influenced by Hibernate.

Gavin King and his team at Red Hat have apparently been working on the grammar in secrecy for two years and is finally opening it up for scrutiny. The new language and SDK is designed to replace Java in the enterprise. The project came out of hiding without much fanfare or publicity at QCon Beijing in a keynote titled "The Ceylon Project - the next generation of Java language?".

The new language, which is called Ceylon, is intended to remedy what King views as fundamental shortcomings of the Java programming language. It's more succinct and expressive but is designed to be easy to read and learn. It will run on existing Java virtual machines and draws on many of Java strengths while addressing some key limitations.

Language Features

Ceylon inherits most of Java's syntax. The following is the Ceylon version of the Hello world program:

void hello() {
   writeLine("Hello World!");

The language is statically typed, supports first-class functions, and emphasizes a conventional object-oriented style of development. It has a typical C-like syntax and is largely designed to appeal to existing Java programmers.

Just like Java, Ceylon will only support single inheritance. It supports the concept of Interfaces. But Ceylon use the keyword ‘satisfies’ rather than Java’s counterpart ‘implements’

More features will be unveiled in the course of time.

Current status
Red Hat is enjoying a lot of growth and profitability right now. The company certainly has the resources to build its own programming language and make it a success. Although the move seems a bit eccentric in light of the broad availability of existing alternative languages, King makes a decent case for Ceylon and its potential benefits.

Will Apache - Colombo be the Open Source hub for Ceylon?
Jakarta-Apache is the Open Source umbrella for Java based frameworks. In the same way, it will be great if Apache foundation decide Apache-Colombo as the Open Source umbrella fro Ceylon language. There are plenty of active and influential Open Source developers and contributors in Sri Lanka. They must make this opportunity to promote Sri Lanka as a Open Source hub.

- Gavin King's keynote presentation on Ceylon


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Anonymous said...

A great news in the New Year.

Tim said...

Named after Ceylon which is popular for Tea. Unveil in China. bot are key destinations of Silk Way. It all make sense that Coffee cup of Java is going to face a serious alternative. I have never heard Coffee and Tea mixed together for drink. :-)

Anonymous said...

Oracle is worse than Microsoft. They go after $$$$ than promoting freedom of using software. Probably Ceylon is the future of Java. Its too early to call yet. But Hibernate and JBoss being success, we may anticipate bright future for Ceylon too under the leadership of Redhat.

Anonymous said...

This is one heck of a news. Thanks.
I'm with the idea of Apache-Colombo to be the hub for Ceylon.
The name makes it sense and the number of Apache/FOSS contributors in Sri Lanka are much higher. Sri Lanka even hosted Apache Road Show Asia in 2009!

Seeker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

This will put lot of pressure on Java. It was a tragedy that Sun micro system was sold to Oracle. Java could have been better off under a open source company like RedHat or even more open company like Google. Will see the trend in Ceylon.

Anonymous said...

Hello previous comment, don't think Google is open as you think. BTW good luck Ceylon!

Anonymous said...

I think yes Google is not as 'open source' as RedHat. But Google is certainly more 'free' and 'open' than Oracle :-). Oracle has neither 'free' nor 'open' culture. They are another 'Microsoft'. Forget about FOSS under Oracle and lets turn to better alternatives.

Thank you. My idea of the Apache-Colombo is the hub of Ceylon. Java could accept been bigger off beneath a open source company like RedHat or even more open company like Google.

stg_rox said...


Araminos said...

Please vote for Kotlin and Ceylon merging in Kotlin bug tracker. Vote


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