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Flame throwing Apache flees Oracle's Java group

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Updated Apache is officially quitting Java's governing body after 10 years, slamming Oracle, the JCP, and fellow JCP members in the process.

On Thursday, the ASF submitted its resignation from JCP's Java Standard and Enterprise Edition (SE/EE) Executive Committee as a direct consequence of the Java Community Process (JCP) vote to approve Oracle's roadmap for Java 7 and 8.

The ASF said it's removing all official representatives from all JSRs and will refuse to renew its JCP membership and EC position.

ASF president Jim Jagielski told The Reg that after walking off the EC, his group with exit the full JCP "in the very near future."

Apache called the Java 7 and 8 vote the EC's last chance to demonstrate it had any intent to defend the JCP as "an open specification process, and demonstrate that the letter and spirit of the law matter."

The law in question is the Java Specification Participation Agreement (JSPA) that sets out the rules for the running of the JCP.

By failing to protect the JSPA, the ASF said it's concluded the JCP is no longer an open specification process and that the commercial concerns of one company, Oracle, "will continue to seriously interfere with and bias the transparent governance of the ecosystem."

In November, the ASF threatened to "terminate its relationship" with the JCP if its rights to a Java license under the JSPA were not upheld. ASF has been a JCP member for 10 years.

This week, JCPers who voted "yes" to Oracle's Java 7 and 8 roadmap but qualified their votes by saying they disagreed with Oracle's field of use and license restrictions on Java.

According to the ASF, though, these EC members have let down the ASF and others implementing independent versions of Java.

"We were looking for the EC to protect the rights of implementers to the degree they are able, as well as preserve the integrity of the JCP licensing structure by ensuring that JCP specifications are able to be freely implemented and distributed," the group said in a statement here.

"By approving Java SE 7, the EC has failed on both counts: the members of the EC refused to stand up for the rights of implementers, and by accepting Oracle's TCK [Test Compatibility Kits] license terms for Java SE 7, they let the integrity of the JCP's licensing structure be broken."

The JCP's JSPA says that Java TCKs will be licensed on non-discriminatory, fair, and reasonable terms and the agreement grants the right to develop and distribute complete binary implementations of the specification incorporating any or all of the Java reference implementation (RI).

Oracle, though, has refused to grant Harmony, ASF's implementation of Java SE, a TCK that would enable the open-sourcers to test and certify Harmony as standards compliant.

In voting "yes" to Oracle's Java 7 and 8 plan the JCP did so without forcing any concessions from Oracle on the TCK or license restrictions. The current license makes it impossible to officially release Harmony as a certified version of Java SE.

Just three EC members voted "no" to Oracle's plan: ASF, Google, and independent committee member Tim Peierls, who on Tuesday announced that he too is resigning from the EC in protest. Peierls is the second independent to quit the JCP EC since October.

The first was Doug Lea, an authority on concurrency in Java, who also resigned over the licensing impasse. Lee burned Oracle for its disregard of the JCP's rules adding the JCP's no longer a credible specification and standards body.

"There is no remaining useful role for an independent advocate for the academic and research community on the EC (executive committee)," Lea said.

The ASF's exit is a serious blow to the credibility of the JCP. The group is home to such leading Java projects as Tomcat, Ant and Geronimo and Apache members had led Java Specification Requests - proposed features for new versions of Java - as well as contributing to technical expert groups.

Their influence and input on Java is now lost.

Some inside Oracle had recognized the looming risk to losing ASF's participation. Oracle's spokesperson on Java SE Henrik Ståhl in November blogged weakly Oracle still respected the ASF and still wanted to work together.

"Our disagreement around TCK licensing does in no way lower our respect for and desire to continue to work with Apache," he wrote.

The feeling was not mutual, apparently.

Bootnote

Oracle vice president of development Adam Messinger has responded to Apache's departure defending its handling of the situation while encouraging ASF to re-consider and re-join the JCP.

"We encourage Apache to reconsider its position and remain a part of the process to move Java forward. ASF and many open source projects within it are an important part of the overall Java ecosystem," Messinger said in a statement here.

Messinger didn't directly tackle the subject that's made Apache walk - licensing and field-of-use restrictions on Java. Instead, he said Oracle had a "responsibility to move Java forward and to maintain the uniformity of the Java standard".

That part about "uniformity" can be taken as being the reason Oracle's refused to grant the ASF a license for Harmony. So far Oracle, has not told anybody why it's refused to grant Harmony a license since it took control of Java and the JCP with its purchase of Sun Microsystems.

In a moment of perfect dissonance that illustrates Oracle's attitude to working with others, Messinger claimed Oracle continues to value the ASF. "Last month Oracle renominated Apache to the Java Executive Committee because we valued their active participation and perspective on Java," he said.

Based on events, it seems Oracle values the input of others just as long as their input doesn't conflict with what Oracle believes is the right course of action.®

This article has been updated to include a statement by Oracle.

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