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Oracle Winds Down "Fortran Successor" Fortress


With Oracle OpenWorld scheduled to run from September 30 to October 4 this year, the eagle eyes of developers will now be turning towards San Francisco to scrutinize the effects of another year of Sun technologies under Larry Ellison's parentage.

News so far this month in this vein is interesting. The company is reportedly now dropping any further development of the object-oriented programming language Fortress.

NOTE: Fortress is a new programming language being designed and developed at Oracle Labs. It is intended to provide static checking of an expressive type system; implicit, abundant parallelism managing with work-stealing; extensible definition through libraries; and syntax providing support for the expression of mathematical (and other) algorithms.

The above definition of Fortress actually comes from Oracle, but as far as it being a "new programming language"… well, the company actually acquired it in research project status from Sun back in 2010. Sun's tagline for the language was… Fortress: we will try to do for Fortran what Java did for C.

Guy Steele of Oracle's programming language research group has confirmed that after nearly a decade of working on the design, development, and implementation of the Fortress programming language, the group that has completed most of the work on Fortress will now see the project wound down.

During the 2004 to 2006 time period Fortress sat under the sponsorship of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and it was hoped to potentially become a possible successor to Fortran — as the language did indeed sport a particularly keen scientific and mathematical focus. In January 2007 the project became open source. Then in 2008, version 1.0 of Fortress was completed with a specific focus on support for high-end parallel systems.

"Many aspects of the Fortress design were novel, and we learned a great deal from building an interpreter and an initial set of libraries. Nevertheless, over the last few years, as we have focused on implementing a compiler targeted to the Java Virtual Machine, we encountered some severe technical challenges having to do with the mismatch between the (rather ambitious) Fortress type system and a virtual machine not designed to support it (that would be every currently available VM, not just JVM)," writes Oracle's Steele.

He continues, "In addressing these challenges, we learned a lot about the implications of the Fortress type system for the implementation of symmetric multi-method dispatch, and have concluded that we are now unlikely to learn more (in a research sense) from completing the implementation of Fortress for JVM. We also note that, over the last 10 years, other languages (Chapel, X10, Clojure, and Scala, among others) have explored some of the same issues that Fortress has addressed, and we have very much enjoyed conversations, collaboration, and friendly competition with those who have explored these ideas in alternative contexts."

The project will be wound down over a period of months with research reports on the language to be shared alongside open discussions was to how to manage the code base.


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