Oracle+Sun effects on Java...?

; Date: Sun Apr 26 2009

Tags: OpenJDK

So, hmm, Oracle+Sun. Interesting twist from the IBM+Sun matchup earlier. There has been numerous rumors over the years about SUN+xyzzy mergers such as Fujitsu, IBM, SGI, Apple, etc. And it's finally come to Oracle. It seems there's a lot of scratching of heads over what this will mean for the open source software projects run by Sun, and of course the back of my mind has been pondering the effect on the OpenJDK. An article in that esteemed dumpster diver rag, The Register, is prompting me to write: (web.archive.org) Oracle suits to strap on Sun's Java sandals: leader without followers

There's a meme in that article that's been in my mind a lot, especially with Stephen Colbourne's series of articles dissecting the JCP. Maybe the JCP doesn't properly represent what the community wants regarding Java.

Many in the community regard Sun as the "steward of Java" and there are many questions over whether Sun is a good steward over Java.

But does Sun think of itself as the "steward of Java" ?? As an employee inside the Java SE team I heard different statements from different people. Sometimes we were positioned as Stewards, other times we were positioned as Owners. The role of a Steward is different than the role of an Owner, right? Sun's true vision of its role in the Java ecosystem is what flavored what Sun did for/to that ecosystem. Similarly Oracle will soon (?likely?) finish the purchase of Sun and then it will be their vision of their role in the Java ecosystem that will flavor what they do for/to that ecosystem.

Some of the criticism of Sun was not properly monetizing its software, such as Java. But would a Steward monetize fully? Or would they hold back for the good of the community? Is full monetization is something an Owner would do? Think: Microsoft and Windows and programmers tools for Windows. The big 8,000,000 lb gorilla in programmers tools for Windows is, so far as I know, Microsoft.

But monetization is only part of Owner versus Steward. Another part is feature choice, right? I never got involved with the EE end of the Java universe, so I'll trust The Register article when it says most of the focus of Enterprise Java developers is not the EE stack but the various smaller scale open source frameworks and tools. Hibernate, Spring, Maven, etc. This says to me that at the EE end the community is not developing the preferred technology through the JCP but through other mechanisms (primarily open source projects). That points to a failure of the JCP to properly represent what the community really wants.

That touches on concerns I've had for a long time. The decision making for Java SE, as I saw it occur, seemed focused on satisfying the needs of huge organizations over smaller ones. I always heard it stated as these huge organizations are big customers of Sun, buying lots of Sun hardware/services etc, and of course we should pay attention to their needs. Similarly it's well known that the JCP is run by the Executive Committees, and that the EC seat's are predominately held by corporate JCP members rather than individuals.

Does Java exist to enrich its owners? Or does Java exist to enrich us all? Who is to be making the decisions about the Java ecosystem?

Sun employees were the inventor of Java and that means (because software is a work-for-hire arrangement) that Sun has had the right choose how Java is delivered to the market, and what to do with this thing. For better or worse Sun's positioning of Java was as an open playing field for everybody to partake in (Sun==Steward). Maybe Sun's true vision is Sun==Owner and that distinction may be the source of much of the friction in the Java ecosystem.

What Oracle do we consult to learn what Oracle's vision is? And if the JCP truly doesn't serve our needs perhaps it needs to be killed, but what would or should replace it? Does it serve us best for significant pieces of the Java ecosystem to continue being developed outside a shared standards process? Or does the existing open source projects better serve the shared needs of the Java ecosystem? And should the core pieces of the Java ecosystem, the ME/SE/EE stacks, also be defined via open source projects rather than the closed source style of the JCP? Unfortunately we in the Java ecosystem/community cannot make some of the required choices, as they rest with the corporate overlords.

Source: (web.archive.org) weblogs.java.net

About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.