Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/30/oracle_alone_on_java/

Everyone but Oracle demands Java independence

Roadblocks for Ellison's roadmap

By Gavin Clarke

Posted in Software, 30th September 2010 00:31 GMT

Exclusive Last week, at its mega OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, Oracle laid out its roadmap for the future of Java. But there's a catch: Oracle's plan stands little chance of succeeding.

Earlier this month, the Java Community Process (JCP) – the only body with the power to ratify and approve changes to Java – passed a resolution calling on Oracle to spin the group out as an as a independent, vendor-neutral body where all members are equal. In 2007, Oracle itself called for such a spin-out, and this month's resolution insists that Oracle live up to its three-year-old proclamation.

The vote was nearly unanimous, according to one JCP member. Only one company abstained from the vote, and that was Oracle.

Those who voted on the resolution include representatives from Google, IBM, Red Hat, Intel, VMware, Nokia, AT&T, Research In Motion, Vodafone, and the Apache Software Foundation (ASF).

The vote was passed before OpenWorld, where Oracle server technologies head Thomas Kurian outlined his Java roadmap as a done deal, claiming it was based on consultation with "developers".

Further undermining any claims Oracle might make about support from the Java community, the board members have also discussed passing a symbolic vote distancing themselves from Oracle's prosecution of JCP member Google over claimed patent violations in Android.

Google's Android uses a subset of the ASF's Project Harmony, a Java SE implementation, in its own incarnation of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) known as Dalvik.

The Reg has learned that most of the JCP feels it has been unfairly associated with Oracle's fight against Google, thanks to Oracle status as Java's main steward.

Separately, there's an underlying belief among JCP members that Oracle should agree to permit Java SE on mobiles. In other words, members have drifted away from Java ME.

There's no confidence and little interest in Java FX for rich internet applications and interfaces on devices running Java ME. Oracle inherited Java FX from Sun, and it has declared that FX is the company's chosen technology for rich-internet applications and interfaces on Java ME phones. As part of the Java roadmap laid out last week, Oracle gave its plans for Java FX and Java ME.

While the vote on Google wasn't taken, the fact that it was floated – combined with the successful vote on independence – shows that the JCP is disillusioned with Oracle and that relations between the pair are at an all-time low.

September's resolution on independence repeats a vote submitted by Oracle in 2007 with BEA Systems (see here), which was recently flagged up by Java father James Gosling.

But rather than live up to its 2007 call, Oracle has rehashed earlier proposals from Sun, the company that held the dominant position on the JCP and whose role Oracle has inherited. Those proposals keep the JCP firmly under Oracle's control.

Last week, Kurian told press at OpenWorld that he'd made a number of proposals to the JCP on its future, but refused to discuss or detail them until a decision had been made.

Now we know why Kurian wouldn't talk. Two months ago, we're told, Kurian re-proposed Sun's old idea for an expanded executive committee and for more open elections.

Acceptance of such a plan would mean that Oracle retains Sun's power of veto over any changes to Java that it dislikes, that Oracle won't reconsider introducing a simplified licensing and IP policy for Java, and that it won't take any steps whatsoever to settle Sun's long-running dispute with the ASF over licensing of Java Test Compatibility Kits (TCKs).

Strained relations

The ASF dispute is important because it impacts Oracle's fight with Google. The TCKs are not available under an open-source license, unlike the rest of Java. The ASF says the TCK field of use terms restrict how and where Harmony can be certified to run. That means Harmony can only run on desktops and can't run on other devices - such as phones, in the case of Android.

This month's vote passed by JCP members repeated Oracle's 2007 motion - also passed by the group - for the body to become a vendor-neutral and legal entity, with a simplified IP policy, with the group funded by members.

Frustration between Oracle and the JCP has been growing. The JCP held face-to-face meetings with Sun every three months and teleconferences took place each month. Since Oracle bought Sun, though, there's been one face-to-face meeting. Another was expected at OpenWorld/JavaOne, but it was canceled by Oracle. Executive committee members have also had to ask Oracle for teleconferences.

The Reg understands that Oracle has made it clear in no uncertain terms that no-one from the company will attend official face-to-face meetings with the executive committee.

Oracle has also set pointless tasks for JCP members. Six months ago, it asked members for examples of other industry groups a new JCP could be modeled on. Members responded, citing the W3C, OASIS and OMG, but Oracle responded with the reworked set of Sun proposals.

JCP members now feel they're seen as the ones staling the decision on their future, given Kurian's bold claims last week of having submitted proposals for their consideration.

With this drama playing out behind the scenes, Kurian laid Oracle's ambitious Java roadmap before 40,000 delegates of Oracle's OpenWorld and JavaOne conferences last week. Kurian claimed his plan was based on consultation with the community and had received positive feedback from developers. The goals is for JDK 7 in mid 2011 and JDK 8 in late 2012.

It now seems that those dates will be hard to meet.

There's no JSR for either, while Oracle has done nothing but alienate the JCP. Some hope JSRs might come out of an upcoming JCP meeting in Bonn, Germany.

Remember those developers Kurian claimed were positive about the roadmap? Based on what The Reg has learned, the only people supporting Oracle's Java plans are likely from Oracle and the former Sun who didn't get chopped or who didn't leave after the acquisition.

Oracle's one hope is that Sun dominated the spec leads for JSRs at the JCP. The presumption is given it's stepping into Sun's boots, it can again lead the changes it wants or - because of its position as chief Java steward - threaten the JCP as a final solution to getting its way.

Things have been deadlocked before on new versions of Java, and similar threats made - by Sun. On Java 6, the JCP withheld their vote on the grounds the dispute over TCK licensing with ASF had to be resolved. The impasse was only broken when Sun brought in senior executives who suggested the JCP might be dissolved should they continue to block progress on Java 6.

Ultimately, ASF and SpringSource - now owned by VMware - were the only ones who voted against Java Enterprise Edition 6 in March 2009, in a vote that proved a symbolic gesture.

Oracle declined to comment.®