Apache threatens Oracle with Java exit
'Respect' and 'desire' rejected
Apache has hit Oracle with an ultimatum: grant its independent implementation of Java a license or it will quit Java's governing body.
The Apache Software Foundation, father of the web's number-one server and a leader of popular open-source Java, will finish its relationship with the Java Community Process (JCP) if its rights to a license under the group's governing principles aren't upheld by Oracle.
The ultimatum is a significant hardening of the ASF's stance, and an escalation of its fight with Oracle, which actually started three years ago against Sun Microsystems, which controlled the JCP at the time.
Earlier this month, ASF president Jim Jagielski told The Reg it would consider whether it should remain a JCP member if other JCP-ers voted "yes" on Java 7 - the next version of Java under Oracle's planned roadmap outlined in September.
On Tuesday, the ASF urged fellow JCP members to vote against that Java 7 roadmap - unless Oracle lives up to its obligations and grants ASF's Project Harmony a license to use the Java Test Compatibility Kit (TCK).
Voting against Oracle's plans would send a "strong and public support for Java as an open specification ecosystem that is a level playing field for participants in order to ensure that anyone, any individual or commercial, academic or non-profit entity – is able to implement and distribute Java specifications under terms of their choice. Specifically, we encourage the other members of the JCP EC to continue with their support of our position regarding Oracle, and vote accordingly on the upcoming Java SE 7 vote," ASF said in a statement released during its annual ApacheCon here.
Geir Magnusson Jr, an ASF board member and JCP rep, told The Reg over email: "The only power the EC [executive committee] really has is its vote on JSRs, and Oracle shouldn't be allowed to create any new JSRs until it behaves in a way that complies with its obligations as the Java SE spec lead."
Oracle can meet its obligations very easily, Magnusson added, by providing Harmony with a Java SE TCK license that doesn't prevent the ASF from distributing Harmony under the Apache License and comes without any additional terms or constraints from Oracle.
Holding up Oracle's Java roadmap could be the only power the JCP has over Oracle. Larry Ellison's giant has largely ignored the JCP since buying Sun earlier this year, and has adopted a form of communicating and collaboration that largely involves Oracle taking a decision in private and then telling everybody else the way it's gonna be.
Oracle doesn't respond to threats, so there's a very good chance the ASF could find itself leaving the JCP minus the license for Harmony it's holding out for – especially since granting Harmony a Java license would mean an embarrassing U-turn for Oracle.
The ASF has been a JCP member since 2000, near the start of the JCP, and no one in the group has ever quit in protest.
An Apache exit would see the JCP and Oracle's Java roadmap lose the input and backing of a respected and influential group leading a huge number of Java projects - Ant, Derby, Geronimo, Jakarta, Maven, and Tomcat. Losing the ASF would undermine the JCP's credibility and any claim by Oracle - fake or otherwise - of a desire to "work" with the community.
The ASF's threat marks a rock-bottom in Oracle's dealings with open sourcers, already skeptical of Oracle's plans on Java and OpenOffice and rattled about MySQL. The ASF has also blown a massive, wet raspberry back at Oracle, which tried to re-rail its deteriorating relationship with Apache on Monday.
Oracle was forced to eat crow and congratulate ASF for its near unanimous election back onto the JCP's SE and EE executive committee. It was an election that saw its own nominee - the little-known-outside-Oracle-circles Hologic - soundly rejected by JCP members.
Congratulating ASF, Oracle's spokesperson on Java SE, Henrik Ståhl, claimed Oracle still respected ASF and wanted to work with the group. "Our disagreement around TCK licensing does in no way lower our respect for and desire to continue to work with Apache," Ståhl said here.
On Tuesday, the ASF told Ståhl and Oracle just exactly where they could shove their "respect" with a statement saying it is walking out of the JCP unless Harmony gets a license.
The blow-up follows a closed-door JCP meeting in Bonn, Germany, where Oracle's reps told the group that Oracle had absolutely no intention of granting ASF a Java license for Harmony. Oracle has given no reason other than citing unidentified "additional information" that had come to light since Oracle took over Sun. Sun had been the former chief steward of Java, the only company with the right to veto changes to Java and had also been in overall control of the JCP.
The meeting – and Oracle's unilateral decision to not grant Harmony a Java license – were uncovered by The Reg.
Oracle then dropped a bombshell in October, after it emerged it had persuaded IBM to abandon Harmony for the rival OpenJDK project. Meanwhile, Oracle is suing JCP-er Google for alleged violations of its Java patents in Android. Android uses a subset of Harmony.
Oracle also told JCP-ers that one way or another, it is "going to do" the Java roadmap it outlined in October. Judging by the ASF's stance, the election defeat of Hologic and ASF's easy victory, as well as the fact nearly every JCP member stood against Oracle in September, it is looking increasingly difficult for Oracle to do so. ®