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What Does Jakarta EE Mean for the Future of the Java EE Guardians?

Now that Oracle has handed off the technology formerly known as Java Enterprise Edition to the Eclipse Foundation, and the resulting EE4J Project will be developing that technology rebranded as Jakarta EE, I can't help wondering what will become of the group of enterprise Java jocks that, arguably, made this transition happen.

It was two years ago last month that the Java EE Guardians formally announced themselves, though its founding members had been meeting quietly for months before that. The group led a very public push to get Oracle to attend to its duties as steward of enterprise Java. Its members assembled and published evidence to support their assertion that Java EE is critical technology that needed more attention from Oracle. They launched a Web site, published a letter to the execs at Redwood Shores, followed up with a petition demanding action, and just generally became a thorn in Big Red's side.

Oracle might have offloaded Java EE on its own, eventually, but you've got to give the Guardians credit for throwing a spotlight on this issue and keeping it in front of the Java community.

Not surprisingly, the Guardians, themselves, have been wondering about their role in this brave new world. In fact, they recently took a vote on whether to stay together, disband or become an EE4J project. They voted overwhelmingly to keep on keepin' on.

I recently grabbed a few minutes between planes with the peripatetic Reza Rahman, senior architect at CapTech Consulting and former Oracle evangelist, who has been something of a driving force behind the Guardians, to ask him about the future of the group. He affirmed his personal desire to keep the organization together.

"I believe there will continue to be a valuable role for the Guardians to play in the ecosystem," he said. "Indeed, I had the idea to form a body like the Guardians while I was still at Oracle, long before the trouble with Oracle commitments to Java EE even began. The work on both the independent grassroots evangelism and activism fronts have been long-standing gaps the Guardians can help fill going forward."

The decision to keep the Guardians together was clear, but what the group will be called has yet to decided. In a recent vote, "Keep current name for now" edged "Rename to Jakarta EE Guardians" by one vote. (Rename to "JEE Guardians," "Java EE Evangelists" and "EE Guardians" came in a distant fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.) The plan is to revisit the renaming question in a few months. Rahman says he has already secured "suitable domain names and Twitter handles."

"Honestly the renaming continues to be a hard pill to swallow for me personally," Rahman admitted in a discussion thread on the Guardians' Google Group site. "I've worked for so many years to advance the Java platform that the loss of the Java branding really feels like a tragedy. That's why not renaming or renaming to something ambiguous like JEE Guardians or EE Guardians continues to sound awfully good. [But] I really do think it's best to stand fully behind Jakarta EE and let a renaming reflect that support…."

How the Guardians will take part in the Java community in general and the Eclipse Foundation in particular is something the group is still working out. It appears that most members want to continue as an independent, grassroots Java EE advocacy organization. But for now, the membership has agreed to contribute to the Eclipse EE4J Project and the Eclipse MicroProfile Project as individuals, rather than as a group.

Meanwhile, Rahman said, the Guardians should avoid complacency, both in the long and short term. "Believe me I'd love to say Java EE is now out of the woods," he wrote, "but I just don't think that's true."

For example, the new standardization process for enterprise Java is still being worked out, he wrote, and the group should monitor the following:

  • When will the transfer process to Eclipse actually finish?
  • How open and effective are things actually going to be under this new standardization process?
  • What does the roadmap for Jakarta EE in the next few years actually look like?
  • How do we make sure this roadmap is what the community and industry actually wants vs. what vendors want?
  • How do we know how well-funded this new technology will be? Are we so sure we won't slide right back to the lack of investment situation we ran into with Oracle? (While it is nice to think the community will pick up the pieces if vendors drop the ball, we all know reality in a competitive industry is not so simple.)
  • How will EE4J and MicroProfile be aligned?

The Guardians are also in a unique position to do the following:

  • Make sure vendors are implementing Java EE 8, MicroProfile and Jakarta EE in a timely fashion. We can do this by actively tracking progress and regularly publishing our findings.
  • Hold vendors to higher implementation standards by routinely trying things out and publishing our findings. I think we should even compare implementations just like RebelLabs did.
  • Make sure Java EE is well supported by tools, on the cloud, etc., by routinely trying things out and publishing our findings. Again, we could do comparisons here to keep vendors honest.
  • When customers and users run into trouble with vendors, they should know they can come to us as a last resort and we will advocate collectively on their behalf.
  • We all know the next bit of anti-Java EE FUD is right around the corner from the usual suspects. When this happens, we will need to act quickly and effectively as a collective.

"None of this is easy or pleasant but all of this is important to make sure Java EE remains relevant or competitive," Rahman wrote. "The only people who can really effectively and credibly do this is us."

Rahman said he is also expecting the organization's leadership to expand in the new world of Eclipse Jakarta EE. "I have, perhaps, been more of a central figure than I'd originally planned to be," he said. "And I know there are Guardians who are interested in stepping up with time and energy for this important work. This is something I welcome and expect to see in the near future."

Posted by John K. Waters on April 11, 2018