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Open-source Sesame! Alibaba promises super-size magic for Java

Commerce giant joins JCP steering group candidates lineup

Java image by Gil C via Shutterstock

Online commerce giant Alibaba is among a crop of “new world” Java users seeking to shape the direction of both language and platform.

Alibaba, one the world’s largest users of Java, has entered the race for election to the ruling executive committee (EC) of the Java Community Process (JCP). Jack Ma’s ecommerce giant joined the JCP only three months ago – in August.

Also running for election to Java’s steering group are representatives of end user groups from China, Africa and Germany. One, the GreenTea Java User Group (JUG) in Shanghai, was founded and sponsored by technical staff from Alibaba.

Martijn Verburg, London JUG co-leader and jClarity chief executive, told The Reg that such diverse and new representation is a positive sign for a strong and growing Java. Also, it reflects a desire from the EC to attract more interest from outside the familiar pool of big US and European corporations.

"Java continues to show that it has broad appeal, attracting influencers that want to shape its future from a wide range of organisations,” said Verburg, who is also an EC candidate.

JCP chair Patrick Curran in May called the prospect of Alibaba’s membership “a very positive step, given its leading role in China, and indeed globally”. He believes that if Alibaba joins, other Chinese firms might follow suit.

It’s not just regional representation that Alibaba would bring; the commerce giant runs Java at massive scale and could have fresh input on web-scale Java. Alibaba reckons it has identified areas that could be redesigned to better serve its needs.

The firm claims in its election statement to have a world-beating Java footprint with “tens of thousands of machines running Java every second serving insurmountable numbers of web pages and transacting Alibaba’s full spectrum of services, including the world’s largest online ecommerce marketplace.”

Areas for change include that age-old hurdle to real-time performance – garbage collection, deployment plus just-in-time compilation.

“The environment we are facing is mostly a web server one, where short sessions come and go very quickly. We once again firmly believe that JVM/JDK/middleware may accommodate better by assuming certain behaviour and workload with web server characteristics. We therefore think joining the committee will help us express that,” Alibaba said.

Alibaba’s candidate is JVM team lead Haiping Zhao.

Should the big boys vying for a coveted seat be elected, power looks to be passing ever so lightly to the ever-important user groups.

Aside from Green Tea there is iJUG, an umbrella of 30 user groups in Germany, Austria and Switzerland founded in 2009. iJUG wants the JCP to be more open and democratic. This includes taking action on JSRs, should spec leads go missing.

That should be seen as response to the fact Oracle’s JSR leads stopped working on Java EE this year to concentrate on development of the vendor’s cloud instead – a fact that has seen Java EE 8 delayed and in the resulting frustration bred MicroProfile.io.

Also in the running are representatives of the Morocco JUG for the associate seat.

The JCP consists of 25 members but it’s the EC that guides development of Java. It approves and votes on all technology proposals, in addition to setting the JCP’s rules and representing the interests of the broader JCP community.

The EC consists of 16 ratified seats, six elected and two brand-new associate seats, with Oracle holding a permanent position. The EC ballot closes on 14 November with the results announced the next day. ®

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