The latest news on the Java block is that Java Enterprise Edition will be moving into a new neighbourhood. Oracle announced a month ago that it was weighing up whether or not to offer control of Java EE to an open source foundation and it appears that it is going down that route.
More specifically Oracle has agreed to grant control of the platform to the Eclipse Foundation. The Eclipse Foundation not only supports open-source but is a non-profit organisation. The move makes sense for Eclipse Foundation as its main project is Java IDE.
Full details haven’t yet been confirmed but David Delabassee, from Oracle, has said that Oracle’s Java EE, along with other GlassFish tech, such as RIs and TCKs, will be licensed to the foundation. As part of the changes the project will also receive a shiny new name.
About the changes Delabassee has said: "We intend to enable use of existing javax package names and component specification names for existing JSRs to provide continuity." This will be welcome news to sysadmins and DevOps who need to ensure continuity.
Oracle has revealed the thinking behind its cooperation with the Eclipse Foundation. It appears that they spoke to a few potential suitors before agreeing a deal. Apparently Oracle chose Eclipse because of its extensive experience with Java EE and other related tech.
Eagle-eyed followers of Oracle and open source technology will have spotted a worrying pattern. After obtaining a range of open source technologies in 2010 from Sun Microsystems, Oracle has earned itself a reputation for ditching open source projects that it feels don’t fit the Oracle mould. Open Office, for example, was ditched by Oracle and found its way to the Apache Foundation where it found itself in the middle of a developer squabble and was eventually reworked as LibreOffice.
There is reason to think that Java EE will fare differently here. By all accounts Enterprise Java is still an important element to Oracle as it is at the core of Oracle’s proprietary Java technologies.
Additionally, Rich Sharples, Senior Director of Product Management at Red Hat, and former employee of Sun Microsystems, thinks that Oracle is grasping what open source is really all about. He has said: "We've been working with Oracle for decades around Java and this definitely does feel like a different Oracle. They are taking this very seriously. They are moving extremely quickly. That's just very encouraging and I think Oracle should take some credit for that.”
Sharples added: "Oracle has had kind of a patchy record with open source in the past. This does seem like they're looking at open source and collaboration differently than they have, so that's very encouraging."
News of the change should also be encouraging to Java EE developers who have been annoyed at the project’s development environment under Oracle. Many developers were suspicious that Oracle harboured little desire to develop the technology much further.
With the change to Eclipse Foundation Sharple is optimistic that improvements for Java EE developers may be forthcoming. He has said: "It's more than just a move to the Eclipse Foundation," he said. "It's a move to a more open collaborative enterprise Java.
"I think when people start to see change in the way the platform is going, and start to see a change in the pace of how we take the platform forward, then I think they're going to get completely re-energized with Java EE.
"It still powers a big chunk of enterprise applications. It's got a huge installed base of many developers. What I think those folks have really missed over the last few years is a clear direction for it. Hopefully, that will come pretty soon. There's a whole bunch of logistical stuff to figure out on how to make this happen and move it forward, but once that starts to happen, I think there'll be a new level of energy around enterprise Java."
However, according to Sharples, any Red Hat involvement and scheduling is still in flux. "Red Hat's part is still fairly peripheral," he said. "Oracle really has the lion's share of the work, and I can't really answer for them."
Of course Red Hat has its own interests and ideas about the direction it would to see Java EE take. "Reinvigorating the Java EE brand," said Sharple. "We obviously have a vested interest. We have many customers who run on our JBoss EAP products. Assuring they can sort of look forward to a bright future would be beneficial for us. Getting developers enthused about enterprise Java again would be great.
“Developers today have many choices, whereas a decade ago there were really only two for enterprise applications. We live in a different world today, so we have to insure that developers building new applications, not just maintaining old applications, use enterprise Java for these enterprise applications as a viable and exciting path forward.
"I think announcements alone are not very sufficient," Sharples continued. "I think Oracle's done a good job so far, but you've got to follow with tangible actions. I do believe that Oracle understands that and they are pushing ahead as rapidly as they can, so that's good."