With Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems expected to be approved any day now, the question many asked when the database giant initially announced its acquisition plans last April remains: What will happen to Java?
The European Commission is reportedly poised to approve Oracle's $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun after investigating concerns about Oracle's plans for the open-source MySQL database. However, many in the IT industry want to know what Oracle will do with Java and the Java Community Process, which acts as the steward of Java, the language and the platform.
"Java is a very important technology to pretty much every vendor in the IT industry except Microsoft," Mark Little, Red Hat's representative on the JCP Executive Committee and the company's chief technologist for JBoss Enterprise Middleware, said to eWEEK. "And what they do with Java the language and Java the platform could have a big impact on the industry."
Aside from Sun, Oracle and IBM, some other Java powerhouses have emerged over the years, including Red Hat's JBoss and VMware's SpringSource unit. For instance, the Java EE 6 (Java Platform, Enterprise Edition 6) specification, known as Java Specification Request 316 (JSR-316), includes support for two specifications for which Red Hat played an important leadership role: JSR-299, which incorporates the JBoss Seam Framework for building Web 2.0 applications, and JSR-303, a data validation tool.
"Since 1996, Oracle has been saying that the JCP needs to be more open," Little said. "I would hope that they would be willing to open it up as much as they said they wanted to see things open up back then," now that the company is about to own Sun and Java, he added.
"Hopefully, Oracle will do the right thing," Little said. But he also ran through a worst-case scenario. "I can't exactly say what they would do as the right thing, but the wrong thing would be to close down the platform so that only Oracle technology is compliant or something like that. And everybody would have to accept it. Sun could have done the same thing. They had veto power on the JCP but they never used it. When Oracle takes on that role they could do the opposite. They could disband the JCP. Or they could make it so that only Oracle's implementation could be called Java."
However, Little said he does not expect Oracle to do the "wrong thing" and in fact said he hopes they will open the JCP up even more.
"There is no indication Oracle will do anything negative," he said. "Back in 2006 to 2007 the JCP was not as open as it is today. But the opening up of the process was a direct result of pressure from Sun and others."
Meanwhile, despite the drawn-out acquisition process, innovation in the Java space has continued despite uncertainty about the fate of the Java platform under Oracle.
"I don't think the fact that the Oracle/Sun deal has been in limbo has had any impact on innovation," Little said. "We've certainly been able to innovate. And look at what Google's done with Android. We also saw Java EE 6 come out since the acquisition deal was announced."
Overall, Little said he and Red Hat hope for Oracle to maintain the "status quo" or better with Java and the JCP. "If they acted exactly as Sun [did] everything would be OK, but I'd hope for a little more."
Another individual, whose company is represented on the JCP committee but who asked not to be identified, told eWEEK: "I think whatever they would make could only be for the better, because I can't see how it gets worse."