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Red Hat: We still love Java 6, even if Oracle doesn't

Says it's taking over leadership of OpenJDK 6

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Red Hat has announced that it is assuming the leadership of the OpenJDK 6 community, just days after Oracle issued what it said would be the final patch for version 6 of its commercial Java SE 6 Development Kit.

Oracle posted JDK 6 Update 43 on Monday as an emergency patch for the latest in a series of severe vulnerabilities that have plagued the Java browser plugin. But although Oracle is already investigating other flaws, it said that this would be the last set of public fixes for Java SE 6.

"Oracle recommends that users migrate to JDK 7 in order to continue receiving public updates and security enhancements," the database giant said in the update's formal release notes.

In fact, users got more useful life out of JDK 6 than they had any reason to expect. Oracle originally set the end-of-life date for JDK 6 for July 2012, but it pushed back the kill date twice to give users extra time to upgrade.

But on Thursday, Red Hat said it would continue to maintain JDK 6, even now that Oracle has ceased supporting it, in the form of OpenJDK 6, the open source reference implementation of the Java platform.

"Red Hat ... has transitioned into a leadership role for the OpenJDK 6 project, effectively extending support for the technology and its users," the company said in a canned statement.

Although primarily known as the leading enterprise Linux vendor, Red Hat has also been a major presence in the Java world, ever since its $350m acquisition of open source middleware maker JBoss in 2006.

Since then, Red Hat has been one of the most active participants in the OpenJDK community, along with the likes of Google, IBM, and Oracle itself. The company says its decision to take on leadership of the OpenJDK 6 project reinforces its commitment to the broader Java community and to driving the future of the platform.

"Red Hat's vision includes better overall performance and manageability while enabling greater functionality around dynamic scalability and cloud computing," the company said – which we reckon jibes pretty well with Oracle's goals, too.

Red Hat did not outline any specific plans for OpenJDK 6 under its leadership, but given that the Java 6 spec is frozen, it's safe to say that its main focus will be on fixing bugs and closing security holes as they are discovered.

According to the OpenJDK 6 project website, "bug fixes in JDK 7 that do not involve specification changes have presumptive validity for OpenJDK 6. That is, by default such fixes are assumed to be applicable to OpenJDK 6, especially if having 'soaked' in JDK 7 for a time without incident."

That means any new fixes Oracle makes to JDK 7 should also be applicable to OpenJDK 6. What's needed is someone to do the work, and that's where Red Hat is taking charge.

Of course, there is one other option available to JDK 6 users who don't want to switch to OpenJDK, and that's Oracle's premium Java SE Support. Oracle will continue to provide updates to JDK 6 for another two years or more, for a fee.

Check here to see what that might cost you, and then thank Red Hat for offering what's essentially the same stuff for free. ®

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