Alibaba Adds to the Growing List of OpenJDK Distros

China’s e-commerce giant, Alibaba, has unveiled its own Java distribution. Based on OpenJDK and Java SE 8, Dragonwell8, currently in preview, is the open source version of the company’s in-house implementation.

Dragonwell is a downstream version of OpenJDK that has been optimized for e-commerce, financial and logistics applications running on 100,000-plus servers. The company describes it as “the engine that runs these distributed Java applications in extreme scaling.”

Alibaba plans to support Dragonwell distro with long-term support, including performance enhancements and security fixes. The distro currently supports X86-64/Linux platform, and it is compatible with the Java SE Standard.

The company also describes Dragonwell as a friendly fork, distributed under the same licensing terms as the upstream OpenJDK project. “Alibaba is committed to collaborate closely with OpenJDK community and intends to bring as many customized features as possible from Alibaba Dragonwell to the upstream,” the company declared on the distro’s GitHub page.

Alibaba announced that it would be making its internal Java distro available as open source at the recent Alibaba Cloud Summit. The company has been developing open source software based on OpenJDK internally since around 2010, and it began optimizing and customizing OpenJDK 8 in 2015. Dragonwell is essentially an open source version of AJDK (Alibaba/AlipayJDK), which it used to develop its own Java apps.

The world’s fastest-growing online marketplace, Alibaba raked in $248 billion last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Most of the application running on the Alibaba platform are written in Java, which translates to more than 1 billion lines of code and the work of more than 10,000 Java developers, the company has said.

Alibaba joined the Java Community Process in 2018, and its chief scientist, Kingsum Chow, began serving as an Executive Committee (EC) member that year. Chow was elected to one of the Ratified Seats on the EC, which was left vacant by Dutch semiconductor manufacturer NXP Semiconductors, in a special election.

With this announcement, Alibaba becomes the latest company to add to a growing list of OpenJDK distributions, which currently includes distros from Azul, IBM, Red Hat, Linux and most recently, Amazon and SAP. Virtually all were created in response to Oracle's decision to end free long-term support for OpenJDK after January 2019.

Alibaba plans to release new versions of Dragonwell, with bug fixes, optimizations, and custom features, on a quarterly basis, the company said.

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].