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Oracle floats Java EE for cloud

Reform, regrets, and compromise?

Oracle has begun pushing another new version of Java while planning to shake up the group responsible for Java whose rules it has ignored in the past.

The database giant says it's working with the Java Community Process (JCP) on a set of proposals for Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) 7.0 that will make Java EE "relevant for the cloud".

The Java Specification Requests (JSRs) that Oracle and the JCP are cooking up will be released "shortly" and will make Java EE "the best application server built for the cloud", according to Oracle's vice president of product development for application grid products Ajay Patel, speaking during an Oracle webcast on Tuesday.

Java EE is the building block of Java application servers such as Oracle's WebLogic, bought with BEA Systems for $8.5bn in 2008, and WebSphere from Oracle's number-one Java rival IBM. Java EE is also used by open source app servers that have stolen business from WebLogic and WebSphere: Red Hat's JBoss and tc Server from SpringSource, owned by VMware.

Java EE 7.0 will accompany changes for JCP, the Java community body responsible for ratifying changes.

Patel said the structure of the JCP would be changed, and suggested that these changes could be connected to the proposals for Java EE itself. Patel said that Oracle is "looking at the JCP process" and some JSRs "are about transforming the JCP itself."

"We want input and innovation from the community," he said. Patel reckoned that Oracle would be "inclusive" while also driving the pace of change "more aggressively" – if that's at all possible. "From a product perspective it's about keeping [Java] current and keeping it relevant," Patel said.

This is the first offer from Oracle to be inclusive concerning Java. The roadmap for Java Standard Edition (Java SE) 7 and 8, currently working its way through the JCP, was authored by Oracle and those Sun engineers that the database giant had decided to keep onboard following the acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

Oracle presented Java SE 7 and 8 as a fait accompli, saying it would push the plan through no matter what.

While Java SE is the foundation of Java EE, it has always been less of a priority for big enterprise vendors. Java EE, however, is a different game – and Oracle won't be able to bully through Java EE 7.0 because millions of dollars of other companies' business is involved.

IBM has the largest Java app-server market share with WebSphere, Red Hat owns a decent stake thanks to the once-disruptive JBoss, and SpringSource is now owned by virtualization market-share leader and cloud enabler VMware. Historically, enterprise Java vendors have been forced to collaborate on the features they want in Java EE for the sake of compatibility of features between their app servers to let devs easily port their apps.

Relations with Java community members hit rock bottom last year concerning Java EE when Oracle refused to grant the Apache Software Foundation a license for its Project Harmony implementation. Oracle broke the JCP's rules by refusing to grant Apache a license and its actions saw individual JCP members quit the executive committee leading Java SE and EE, and Apache, leave the JCP.

Oracle attempted to replace one empty EC seat with one of its own customers, the unknown Hologic. The company's candidacy was thumpingly rejected by JCP members during an election that also returned Apache to the EC in a near-unanimous decision.

Tackling the Hologic incident, Patel said that Oracle had done a "poor job" explaining why it had put forward Hologic. Most saw it as a simple attempt by Oracle to stuff the EC with sympathizers. According to Patel, Oracle's actual goal is to bring more of a customer focus.

He said Oracle has been working with some of its largest customers using Java strategically in the enterprise about taking a seat on the EC, to break out from the technology-community bias.

That could still pose a problem and raise questions about motivation on the part of Oracle, and impartiality on the part of EC nominees, if the giant again proposes its own Java users for top positions in the JCP.

Oracle, meanwhile, is still uncertain about what to do about the iconic JavaOne Conference it inherited from Sun. Under Sun, JavaOne was a big event held annually in San Francisco's Moscone conference center. Under Oracle's imaugural stewardship last year, JavaOne was kicked out of Moscone for the 41,000 attendees of Oracle's OpenWorld conference.

JavaOne was spread across three venues in a part of town known more for its week-to-week hotels, with coders stretched between sessions and unable to network thanks to bad timing and geography. Patel said a better JavaOne is "the number-one conversation happening in the executive ranks" and that Java developers want to attend a marquee event.

"We are looking at a choice of a September JavaOne in an environment that's much more suited to networking. ... I can assure you this is getting the highest attention," he said. ®

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