Apache Harmony Project Gets Mothballed: Sent to 'Attic'

The votes are in, and it looks like the Apache Harmony project is out -- or rather, sent to the "Attic," where Apache projects go when they reach the end of life. The vote was reveled on the Harmony mailing list: 20 Project Management Committee (PMC) members voted for the shutdown, while two members were against it.

Harmony was the Apache Software Foundation's (ASF) effort to create a compatible, independent implementation of Java Standard Edition under the Apache License. Launched in 2005, the project focused on creating a community-developed modular virtual machine (VM) and class library architecture to allow independent implementations to share runtime components, and allow independent innovation in runtime components.

But since 2006 the project has been unable to secure a test compatibility kit (TCK) license, first from Sun Microsystems, then from Oracle. Without the TCK license, Harmony couldn't be tested and certified against the Java standard. The ASF argued that the agreement under which Oracle and the ASF participated in the Java Community Process (JCP) entitled the ASF to a TCK license, which the organization needed to distribute the project under the Apache License. But neither Sun nor Oracle wanted to see a parallel implementation of Java, and the license was never granted.

The ASF quit the Executive Committee (EC) of the JCP in 2010 when the committee voted to approve Java SE 7, which the ASF opposed.

IBM, originally a strong backer of Harmony, threw its support behind Oracle's OpenJDK project last year, signaling a shift away from the Apache project. Forrester analyst John R. Rymer saw the move at the time as the beginning of the end for Harmony.

"Harmony has a dim future," Rymer told ADTmag last year. "It needed massive investment from IBM to be competitive with OpenJDK, and I can't see how that happens now. IBM will devote its time and energy to OpenJDK."

The "Attic" is actually kind of a home for Apache projects with no PMC. It provides oversight for active user lists of projects with no active development. An Apache project can be moved to the Attic by a vote of the PMC or a decision by the ASF's board. According to the ASF, projects are moved to the Attic when their PMC's are unable to muster three votes for a release, when they have no active committers, or when they are unable to fulfill their reporting duties to the board.

Uwe Schindler, a committer and PMC member of the Apache Lucene and Solr projects, helped ADTmag confirm the decision to via e-mail.

"More interesting is now Google's response, as they are using parts of the class library (not the virtual machine) for Android," Schindler said. "But also my own project, Apache Lucene (an open-source text search engine library written in Java) used some forked code from this library for internal routines, like string handling. So it's still a good source of open source implementations of various algorithms from the JDK. But the whole project is dead, unfortunately."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].