Apache: Brokeback JCP, 'I Wish I Knew How to Quit You'

The Apache Software Foundation's threat to quit the Java Community Process over a long-term spat over a test kit shows the process is broken. Let's hope not irreparably.

You might look at the Apache Software Foundation's threat to quit the Java Community Process as like a spoiled child threatening to take his toys away because the other kids won't play nice. But it's more than that; this battle has been going on for more than four years and it is no playground matter.

In some ways this case is more like the line from the movie "Brokeback Mountain," with ASF saying to the JCP: "I wish I knew how to quit you." Because the JCP needs ASF and vice versa.

In a Nov. 9 statement the ASF board said Apache would quit the JCP board seat that it was re-ratified for recently if it did not receive the Java Test Compatibility Kit (TCK) for its Harmony implementation of Java that it has been seeking.

Apache quitting the JCP presents a sticky situation for Java developers, the JCP and the entire Java community. ASF initially took the fight to Sun when Geir Magnusson Jr., Apache's vice president of JCP relations wrote an open letter to, er, opened up a can, on Sun Microsystems' CEO Jonathon Schwartz in April of 2007.

But Sun would not budge on giving Apache a TCK for Harmony and now that Oracle owns Java, it does not look like they will either.

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

"In the wake of the Oracle and IBM agreement on OpenJDK, Harmony will effectively have no future. This is cause for ASL to re-think why it is even in the JCP. Oracle has a bit of a quandary on its hands, if it supports a parallel implementation of Java like Harmony in open source it would set itself on a road where it may no longer be able to fund any R&D in Java internally. There are a few hundred people that work at Oracle whose salaries are paid from Java licensing and whose work is critical in evolving Java and keeping it relevant. Providing the TCK to Harmony and the Android lawsuit have to be seen in the light of trying to keep Java alive. I am not sure I buy the notion that if Java was freely available in the form of Harmony it would be maintained and evolved in a way that would keep it viable."

What does this all mean for the Java community? Well, some see doom and gloom, in that the JCP may be on its way down.

Mik Kersten, creator of the open-source Mylyn project and CEO of Tasktop Technologies, told eWEEK: "The JCP is on the verge of a meltdown. Apache's threat to depart, Doug Lea's resignation and the voting down of one of Oracle's candidates for a ratified seat are all indicative of what could be the biggest crisis since the JCP's creation. The next few moves will determine whether the Java Community Process regains its relevance or ceases to exist as what developers and vendors consider a -community process.'"

Doug Lea, formerly an individual member of the JCP executive committee and a computer science professor at the State University of New York at Oswego, resigned from his post in October 2010, seeking not to be ratified for another term.

Lea posted a statement giving his reasons for resigning from the JCP. It read in part: "I believe that the JCP is no longer a credible specification and standards body, and there is no remaining useful role for an independent advocate for the academic and research community on the EC."

Further, blasting Oracle, Lea said:

"Rather than fixing rules or ceasing violations, Oracle now promises to simply disregard them. If they indeed act as they have promised, then the JCP can never again become more than an approval body for Oracle-backed initiatives."