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Java SE 1.4 to graft until 2017

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Sun Microsystems is extending the working life of Java Standard Edition 1.4, through a support program to carry the software beyond this summer's official retirement and onto 2017.

This is for paying customers only. Others must upgrade to the latest edition of Java SE, with free support slashed from six to three years - or fend for themselves using Sun's OpenJDK.

The changes come under a Java SE support service targeting businesses that launched today. Sun will charge an annual, per-user subscription starting at $10 per employee to receive Java SE fixes. Support for all the latest editions of Java SE will now run to 15 years instead of the current six.

Bi-weekly fixes are to be pumped out to customers of the three-tiered program. Top payers, who shell out $12.50 per employee per month, are entitled to special fixes for customized installations of Java, Sun says.

Those unwilling, or unable, to pay Sun will still get free, regular quarterly Java SE updates, but for three years only, instead of six, as before. So you will need to upgrade when a new version of Java SE ships. Or you could roll your own fixes - as all updates released through Sun's paid program, along with the free updates, will be put into Sun's OpenJDK project.

Sun thinks customers running Java SE on PCs, and developers building desktop and server-side applications, will move to new editions of Java SE anyway, to access latest features. Roger Calnan, Java SE engineering director, told Reg Dev: "We found most developers and consumers want to move to the latest release to get performance and fixes."

Sun's support covers Java SE versions 1.4, 5.0 and 6.0 for Solaris 10, Windows and Red Hat Linux, meaning these and future editions of Java SE get 15 years support. Java SE 7.0 due in 2009.

Support for Java SE 1.4 is the Big Daddy. Java SE is the underlying platform for server-side Java, Java Enterprise Edition. Version 1.4 of Java SE and EE were landmark releases adopted by big application server providers such as BEA Systems, Oracle and IBM. Their software is embedded in most enterprise IT infrastructures and requires ongoing updates and maintenance.

Because Java SE 1.4 support was scheduled to finish this summer, customers had faced the dilemma of upgrading or evaluating new software - like Windows or open source. That's the kind of unpleasant situation that Microsoft customers often find themselves in, once both paid and unpaid support for their versions of Windows has expired.

Significantly, Sun's paid support will see Java SE 1.4, launched in 2002, updated to work with Microsoft's Windows Server 2008. This in turn mean old versions of products such as BEA WebLogic and Oracle Application Server that use Java EE will run better on this new Microsoft platform.

Integration with Sun's xVM virtualization products is another plus for paid support. Sun is also looking at the "most popular and requested" virtualization products.®

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