Analyst Watch: Java: Two years after Oracle
By Al Hilwa
April 23, 2012 —
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Related Search Term(s): Java, Oracle
The Oracle acquisition of Sun Microsystems closed in January of 2010, and a road map for the various acquired technologies was drawn up soon after. Even though Java-related software represented a small fraction of Sun's revenue, acquiring Java was the key reason Oracle made its bid for Sun. It is therefore not surprising that developers were concerned and vocal about the acquisition, even though Java was simply passing from one vendor to another.
Java, in fact, passed from a hardware-focused company to a software-focused company, and many feared that Oracle would be much more effective at monetizing it, potentially upping licensing fees, withdrawing it from open source, or evolving it autocratically. Let’s take a look at how Oracle has performed with Java.
Java evolution and the JCP: When Oracle acquired Java, the technology's anchor codebase of Java SE (Standard Edition) was in limbo, heavily weighed down by a huge set of planned improvements for Java SE 7. Meanwhile, the Java governance process (JCP) was stalled by an Apache request for a Test Compatibility Kit (TCK) to certify a parallel Java implementation known as Harmony. Key members of the JCP, such as Apache and IBM, were at loggerheads with Sun over the TCK, which Sun neither provided nor explicitly denied.
Soon after the acquisition, a more decisive Oracle moved to clarify its position on parallel implementations of Java, and so denied the TCK request. This precipitated the departure of the venerable Apache Software Foundation from the JCP, but succeeded in bringing the two largest Java players on the same page. Having resolved the governance conflicts with the JCP, Oracle then pushed through a more realistic plan to deliver the planned Java changes by splitting them into two releases.
Java SE 7 finally shipped in July 2011, almost five years after its predecessor, bringing improved support for dynamic languages and enhancements such as allowing strings in a switch statement (project Coin), among others. Java SE 8, which carries the more ambitious changes initially promised by Sun, will bring modularity (Project Jigsaw), lambda expressions, and a number of additional changes such as Java FX capabilities accessible directly from the Java language instead of a separate scripting language. Java SE 8 is scheduled for mid-2013, and its delivery will be a key test for Oracle's execution on Java.