Apache strikes back in Oracle Java standoff
Ball's in your court, Larry, not ours
Positions are hardening between Oracle or Apache in a battle over licenses and the future of Java.
On Monday, Oracle called on the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) to “reconsider” its call for fellow Java Community Process (JCP) members to vote against Oracle's roadmap for Java with Standard Edition (SE) 7 – outlined in September.
Oracle's vice president of standards and architecture, Don Deutsch, called a vote against Java SE 7 "a call for continued delay and stagnation of the past several years."
“Now is the time for positive action. Now is the time to move Java forward," Deutsch said here.
Deutsch claimed Oracle's living up to its obligations under the JCP's rules in providing licenses for Java Test Compatibility Kits (TCKs).
He said Oracle's Java TCKs are delivered under "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory" terms (FRAND) - also known as just reasonable, and non-discriminatory (RAND) terms.
Call it FRAND or call it RAND it’s still a term of license considered restrictive to open source, and means Apache can’t offer Harmony as a certified version of Java SE.
ASF responded with speed and surgical precision, throwing back Deutsch’s words on stagnation and needing to work together in arguably the shortest - and least couched - of statements in the entire history of statements. The ASF board said Monday afternoon:
“Oracle statement regarding Java: "Now is the time for positive action (and) to move Java forward."
The ball is in your court. Honor the agreement.”
ASF’s link refers to an open letter sent three years ago to the JCP’s then chief controller Sun Microsystems by Apache protesting about the same restrictions on the Java TCKs.
The sticking point is this is Apache's Project Harmony. That's the project Oracle has refused to grant a TCK license. It's also the project ASF says cannot use the TCK's because of accompanying field of use restrictions that restrict where Harmony can be used.
Deutsch didn't need to mention Harmony in his statement Monday, and the purpose of dropping the FRAND bomb mid-statement seems clear: it's a response to Apache's call for a license for Harmony that tells Apache this is Oracle's stance on the matter and it's not changing.
Oracle told a closed meeting of the JCP last month that it had no intention of granting Harmony a license, a continuation of a policy begun under Sun Microsystems.
The giant has never given a reason why. Also, the stance is U-turn on Oracle's earlier position, when Sun ran the JCP and Oracle was just-another-member: that TCKs should be offered without field-of-use restrictions for use by groups like Apache.
In a 2007, JCP executive committee vote, BEA Systems and Intel proposed:
TCK license(s) for Java SE5 and later will be offered without field of use restrictions on spec implementations enabling the TCK to be used by organizations including Apache.
Deutsch was Oracle's EC representative who voted "yes" with most others.
Last week, Apache said that JCPers should vote against Java SE 7 unless Oracle lives up to its obligations and grants Harmony a license to use the TCK. Apache also said it will quit the JCP if Harmony's not granted a license - ASF has belonged to the JCP since 2000, making it one of the group's longest serving members.
ASF contends that Oracle is in breach of the JCP's rules that it's signed up to - the Java Specification Participation Agreement (JSPA) - by not granting Harmony a license.
The ASF is home to a large number of popular open-source Java projects, so a walk out would be a potentially significant blow to the JCP's credibility and any claim to represent open source on Java.
Possibly anticipating this, Oracle has been lining up industry names behind OpenJDK - the alternative to Harmony - to offset such claims. IBM switched its long-time participation in Harmony in October for OpenJDK, while Apple last week became an OpenJDK contributor.
Oracle – though Deutsch's statement – is clearly planning on turning ASF's call to vote against SE7 and the follow-on SE 8 as something it can use against the open-source group. And that’s clearly something ASF has caught wind of.
In a shifting of blame, and appealing to all Java lovers everywhere, Deutsch said: "Oracle believes that with EC approval to initiate the SE7 and SE8 JSRs, the Java community can get on with the important work of driving forward Java SE and other standards in open, transparent, consensus-driven expert groups. This is the priority. Now is the time for positive action. Now is the time to move Java forward."
The hardening positions come as parties on both sides of the dispute convene at Devoxx in Antwerp, Belgium.
Deutsche doesn't seem to be appearing at Devoxx, but chief architect of Oracle's Java Platform Group Mark Reinhold will. He'll be speaking at Devoxx on the Java SE road ahead and he will participate in a panel discussion on the future of Java.
Appearing on the future-of-Java panel will be Stephen Colebourne. An ASF member and an Oracle Java champion, Colebourne blogged here, that Oracle isn't the only one that wants to end Java's stagnation. It's the approach the giant's taken that's wrong.
"We sometimes need to remember that Oracle continues to invest heavily in Java, from ME to SE to EE to FX," he said. "We all want an end to stagnation. I simply object to the approach chosen to end the stagnation."
Oracle could do worse than get a clue. ®