IBM and Oracle Join to Support OpenJDK, the Future of Java

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2010-10-11

IBM and Oracle Join to Support OpenJDK, the Future of Java

Oracle and IBM announced plans to collaborate to enable developers to build and innovate based on existing Java investments and the OpenJDK reference implementation.

The two leading Java supporting companies announced the collaboration on Oct. 11 in a news conference. Specifically, the companies will collaborate in the OpenJDK community to develop the leading open-source Java environment, Oracle and IBM officials said.

The two companies will make the OpenJDK community the primary location for open source Java SE development. The JCP (Java Community Process) will continue to be the primary standards body for Java specification work and both companies will work to continue to enhance the JCP.

The collaboration will center on the OpenJDK project, the open source implementation of the Java Platform, Standard Edition (Java SE) specification, the Java Language, the JDK (Java Development Kit) and the JRE (Java Runtime Environment).

"This is a significant step for IBM and Oracle to collaborate to accelerate Java through the OpenJDK community," said Hasan Rizvi, Oracle's senior vice president for Oracle Fusion Middleware and Java, during the news conference.

Oracle and IBM will support the recently announced OpenJDK development road map, which accelerates the availability of Java SE across the open-source community.

"The Java community is vital to the evolution of the Java platform," Rizvi said. "The collaboration between Oracle and IBM builds on the success of OpenJDK as the primary development platform for Java SE."

"IBM, Oracle and other members of the Java community working collaboratively in OpenJDK will accelerate the innovation in the Java platform," said Rod Smith, vice president, emerging technologies at IBM, who also took part in the news conference. "Oracle and IBM's collaboration also signals to enterprise customers that they can continue to rely on the Java community to deliver more open, flexible and innovative new technologies to help grow their business."

Java is a general-purpose software development platform that is specifically designed to be open and enable application developers to "write once, run anywhere." The platform is most widely used in business software, Web and mobile applications.

This move with IBM and Oracle collaborating on OpenJDK, "really starts to take away the uncertainty around the future of Java," Smith said. "Our commitment to OpenJDK will be good for the whole Java community."

Smith noted that despite the collaboration, IBM and Oracle will continue to compete on their own products based on Java. "Of course we will compete on our commercial offerings, but we will now increase the level of collaboration around advancing Java technology innovation by working together on an open-source Java SE reference implementation," he said.

"This signals real long-term support for Java technology," Smith added.

"This announcement is a win for Java because it brings the community together," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. "Having both Oracle and IBM directly involved in evolving the platform can only help increase the pace of innovation. It will be interesting to see which other major players in the Java ecosystem may be enticed aboard as well."

Moreover, "I also think that this announcement will be good for the Eclipse community as well. First, generally speaking, what is good for Java is good for Eclipse. That which expands Java's adoption and momentum helps us. Second, IBM and Oracle are the two largest supporters of Eclipse in terms of active committers on Eclipse projects. Seeing them increasing their collaboration at OpenJDK bodes well for future community collaborations across the board."

Al Hilwa, program director for applications development software at IDC, told eWEEK:

"To me this is about developer mind-share around Java. It shows that Oracle is not alone in trying to evolve Java more aggressively, perhaps making changes to the JCP process. It shows that the two biggest players in Java are on board with respect to the future. It is about the road map going forward which finally begins to show some realistic planning in trying to get the capabilities out in two waves. Java is under threat of both stagnation and fragmentation. The more vendors pull together working to the resolution of these problems the better. Here we see the two biggest ones showing that they get these threats and since their businesses depend on it and so does the livelihood of millions of developers, they are going to take action to push through some changes in the language and potentially even fixing the broken and over-politicized JCP process."

Mik Kersten, CEO of Tasktop Technologies and creator of the Java-based Eclipse Mylyn project, said, "Following disappointments around this year's JavaOne conference, developer discussions often landed on the question of a Java fork. For those concerned about the fragmentation that a fork would cause, this announcement sends an important signal of Open JDK becoming the open-source future of vendor collaboration around Java. IBM has brought about some of the key developments that helped Java succeed, such as the initial contribution of the Eclipse IDE. With the resources of Oracle and the innovation of IBM focused on Open JDK, Java developers and adopters alike are getting a new level of assurance that the multivendor ecosystem that has Java will continue to thrive. [The remaining question is the health of the JCP.]"

A Pragmatic Choice


Theo Schlossnagle, CEO of OmniTI, said, "Oracle is notoriously bad at managing open-source communities. IBM is notoriously decent at it -- almost -good.' Without this collaboration, enterprise customers would have good reason to be uncertain about the future of open Java and its community."

Schlossnagle added, "Oracle just recently snuffed the OpenSolaris community that Sun took time to build and feed. Their move with OpenSolaris clearly shook the confidence of many of their enterprise customers. So, uncertainty was in the air for other open-source initiatives they had. IBMs involvement certainly stabilizes the situation."

IBM has been a backer of the Apache Harmony open-source implementation of Java. However, Smith said OpenJDK is picking up some classes from Harmony. "We've made a decision that collaborating within a single open-source project will deliver more innovation faster and strengthen the Java community overall," Smith told eWEEK. "So in terms of the Apache Harmony project, we will continue to support work within the Harmony project but we're going to be making OpenJDK our strategic and primary open-source forum for Java SE."

Meanwhile, Smith, Rizvi and Adam Messinger, vice president of Oracle Fusion Middleware, said they expect to see changes and improvements to the JCP (Java Community Process) that will benefit developers.

Eclipse's Milinkovich said, "I was also intrigued by the comments in the blog posts from Oracle and IBM which implied that additional announcements in relation to the governance of the JCP and impending JSRs for Java7 will be coming shortly. If we can move the JCP forward in a positive way then the Java ecosystem will truly be in a position to regain its momentum."

In a blog post, Bob Sutor, vice president of Open Source and Linux for IBM Software Group, said:

"We think this is the pragmatic choice. It became clear to us that first Sun and then Oracle were never planning to make the important test and certification tests for Java, the Java SE TCK, available to Apache. We disagreed with this choice, but it was not ours to make. So rather than continue to drive Harmony as an unofficial and uncertified Java effort, we decided to shift direction and put our efforts into OpenJDK. Our involvement will not be casual as we plan to hold leadership positions and, with the other members of the community, fully expect to have a strong say in how the project is managed and in which technical direction it goes.

"We also expect to see some long needed reforms in the JCP, the Java Community Process, to make it more democratic, transparent and open. IBM and, indeed Oracle, have been lobbying for such transformations for years and we're pleased to see them happening now. It's time. Actually, it's past time."

In summary, Sutor said, "OpenJDK represents the best chance to provide a top notch, unified open-source runtime for Java; customers will benefit by having first-class Java open standards developed collaboratively and constructively; and our energy will be focused on working together and optimizing our joint work, rather than wasting time on duplicative projects."

Asked why IBM decided to join the OpenJDK effort now after laying back from it in the past, Smith credited Oracle for "taking initiative to get us on the phone. Overall, it's in our best interest."

For his part, one Java developer and executive in a major company in the Java ecosystem, who asked not to be identified, said, "Seems to me that both Oracle and IBM make large profits on companies that standardize on Java technologies. The last thing either of them need is for those companies to think that Java isn't safe, is stagnant or might become splintered. I think this announcement is basically both of them reassuring their cash cows that -Java is safe and still a great choice, now and in the future.  Now pay us.'"

Meanwhile, Java creator James Gosling, said to eWEEK of the Oracle/IBM move:

"It's pretty vague. But hopeful. One the one hand 'it's just business,' and it's strongly in the best interests of both parties for peace to break out. On the other hand, they both want to be the master of the universe. I'm somewhat surprised that they both seem to have eaten some humble pie. I hope this turns into breaking the JCP logjam. Good step. I'd like to think that all the public scrutiny on Oracle+Java has helped."



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