Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The next Java shoe falls

IBM have made a big announcement regarding Java:

"IBM, Oracle and other members of the Java community working collaboratively in OpenJDK will accelerate the innovation in the Java platform," said Rod Smith, vice president, emerging technologies, IBM. "Oracle and IBM's collaboration also signals to enterprise customers that they can continue to rely on the Java community to deliver more open, flexible and innovative new technologies to help grow their business."

IBM's Bob Sutor has a short essay with some more details:

It became clear to us that first Sun and then Oracle were never planning to make the important test and certification tests for Java, the Java SE TCK, available to Apache. We disagreed with this choice, but it was not ours to make. So rather than continue to drive Harmony as an unofficial and uncertified Java effort, we decided to shift direction and put our efforts into OpenJDK.

Mark Reinhold has a short post:

I’m very pleased that IBM and Oracle are going to work more closely together, and that we’re going to do so in the OpenJDK Community. IBM engineers will soon be working directly alongside Oracle engineers, as well as many other contributors, on the Java SE Platform reference implementation.

Henrik Stahl at Oracle also has a short post, though it is clear nowadays that Oracle keep a very tight lid on their employee bloggers, and there isn't much to read here.

IBM joining the OpenJDK community is a great win for Java, as it will enable IBM, Oracle and all other contributors to pool resources and accelerate innovation while ensuring strict compatibility across different implementations.

So, who are these "all other contributors"? Well, there are probably several groups of substantial interest who aren't really discussed in the notes above: Apache and other open source groups; SAP, Apple, and other industry players; and, of course, Google.

Stephen Colebourne has a fascinating look at things from the Apache perspective:

Pretending that Sun behaved with the slightest element of decency in this matter is being utterly blind to the facts. They made an executive level choice to shaft the Apache Software Foundation with the explicit knowledge that they would not be sued by a Not-For-Profit.

Simon Phipps also rounds up several other viewpoints at his website.

Tim Ellison, one of the Harmony committers, has an extremely short post:

I believe that compatibility is vital, and rather than risk divergence the right thing is to bring the key platform development groups together on a common codebase.

Since Harmony was basically an IBM effort, it seems like almost a certainty that the IBM Harmony team will move over to the OpenJDK codebase, and that will be that.

What is the outcome for Java? Will it become the Oracle corporate language, with Apple, Microsoft, Google, and others going their own separate ways, and IBM walking a careful line to preserve their immense Java investment? Will there be a general-purpose Java programming environment for systems like Linux, Mac OS X, Android, or even Windows? Which cell phone platform will become dominant, and what will its programming environment be? Where will the next great programming language emerge from, and how will an industry/community form around it? Is that language JavaScript, Go, Scala, or something else yet to be invented?

My own experience with Java is changing. I've enjoyed being a part of the open source Derby project, but I also realize that there are large corporate interests at work here, and it's not an easy thing to understand what the future may hold (insert Yogi Berra joke here).

It's a fascinating process to watch; I'll be continuing to try to understand what is occurring. If you have ideas about what this means, let me know.

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