Oracle: Java EE Needs an Open Source Foundation

With Java EE 8 poised to go GA, and JavaOne 2017 just around the corner, Oracle Corp. says the time is right to "rethink" how Java EE is developed, and it's considering the potential benefits of moving the platform and associated technologies to an open source foundation "to make it more agile and responsive to changing industry and technology demands."

The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based steward of Java put forward that idea today on The Aquarium blog.

"We believe that moving Java EE technologies to an open source foundation may be the right next step, in order to adopt more agile processes, implement more flexible licensing, and change the governance process," wrote Oracle software evangelist David Delabassee. "We plan on exploring this possibility with the community, our licensees and several candidate foundations to see if we can move Java EE forward in this direction."

The roster of technologies that fall under the Java Platform Enterprise Edition umbrella currently includes both open and proprietary tech. The TCKs (test compatibility kits), for example, which are used to validate and prove an implementation of the spec is compliant, are proprietary. And Java EE is licensed under an Oracle commercial license.

Mike Lehman, VP of product management at Oracle, also pointed to the notoriously byzantine Java Specification Participation Agreement (JSPA), which former Chair of the Java Community Process (JCP) Patrick Curran once called "big and scary," as a part of the Java EE development process that could be dramatically improved by such a move.

"The process itself within the JCP is idiosyncratic to the Java Community and subject to licensing rules and legal terms that are often not seen as permissive and simple as other foundations," Lehman said in an email, "like Apache or Eclipse…"

Lehman allowed that what Oracle is suggesting is not as much about open sourcing Java EE as it is "opening up and updating the process associated with Java EE to be compatible with the targeted open source foundation process."

In the Aquarium post, Delabassee emphasized that, while Oracle is exploring this idea, it intends "to meet its ongoing commitments to developers, end users, customers, technology consumers, technology contributors, partners, and licensees."

"And we will support existing Java EE implementations and future implementations of Java EE 8," he wrote. "We will continue to participate in the future evolution of Java EE technologies. But we believe a more open process, that is not dependent on a single vendor as platform lead, will encourage greater participation and innovation, and will be in best interests of the community."

At least one leading vendor believes Oracle is on the right track. "We think that putting Java EE under the jurisdiction of an open source organization is a very positive move that will benefit the entire Enterprise Java community," said John Clingan, senior principle product manager at Red Hat, in an email. "While there is a lot of detail to flesh out, Red Hat is optimistic and applauds Oracle's decision to advance Java EE under an open and collaborative community."

Red Hat is a member of the JCP and leads the CDI and Bean Validation Java EE-related JSRs. The company is a Java EE licensee, and its JBoss Enterprise Application Platform is fully Java EE-compatible.

Another JCP member, Reza Rahman, a longtime enterprise Java evangelist and founding member of the Java EE Guardians, also liked the idea.

"This is great news," Rahman told ADTMag, "and a long time coming."

Rahman and the Guardians began making the case that Oracle has been "conspicuously neglecting" Java EE since the group was founded last year.

"I think it continues to be true that Oracle undervalues Java EE," he said. "I don't think the company understands Java EE and what it can do for it the way, for example, Microsoft understands the value of .NET. This is actually a big victory for many of us in the community. Now the ball is in our court, and the onus is upon us to make the most of it."

Oracle wants feedback on this suggested new direction for Java EE development, and the company is providing a place to weigh in via e-mail: [email protected].

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].