I got back from Chicago on Sunday night after speaking at the Great Lakes Software Symposium (the No Fluff, Just Stuff swanky tour name). I had a great time talking to the other instructors, but the real key to the weekend was the attendees. You could not have recruited a more enthusiastic, plugged-in and eager group of people to stand in front of and yammer away for hours.
Of the entire weekend, the thing that surprised me the most was the discussion we had at the Server Side Java "Birds of a Feather" session. With maybe 50 attendents, only five raised their hands when we asked who was using a "big three" J2EE platform (and four of those were on the same team). Everybody else was either using a lighter container (Spring and Pico came up quite a bit) or one of the newer open source entries: JOnAS and Geronimo. This gives me great hope for the future not only of the J2EE spec, but for the future of the big three as well. With real competition, and a growing number of developers realizing that for a good number of projects, WebSphere and WebLogic and JBoss are just overkill, we may start to see some things creep into future EJB releases that lead to lighter footprints, simpler deployment and pluggable integration with popular frameworks like Hibernate or JDO.