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Oracle moves Java EE to Eclipse Foundation

In an effort to spur innovation and collaboration on the Java EE platform, Oracle has enlisted the help of IBM and Red Hat in moving Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation.

Oracle has moved to further open up the enterprise Java platform by transitioning Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation.

Within a month of beginning to talk about further open-sourcing Java, Oracle has enlisted the help of industry leaders IBM and Red Hat to move Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE), to Eclipse to better enable industrywide collaboration on advancing the technology.

Transitioning Java EE

In a blog post on the move, David Delabassee, an Oracle software evangelist, said, "After careful review, we have selected the Eclipse Foundation as the foundation that we will work with going forward to make the above a reality. The Eclipse Foundation has strong experience and involvement with Java EE and related technologies."

Delabassee said this move will help to transition Java EE rapidly, create community-friendly processes for evolving the platform and "leverage complementary projects, such as MicroProfile."

MicroProfile is also an Eclipse Foundation project, and Red Hat hopes this will make it easier to align Java EE and MicroProfile in the future, said Rich Sharples, director of product management at Red Hat, in a blog post. The MicroProfile project was started in June 2016 as a collaboration between Red Hat, IBM, Tomitribe, Payara and others in the Java community, with the goal of making enterprise Java more relevant to developers building cloud-native applications, he noted.

"We look forward to working with all of the participants in the Java EE ecosystem as it moves to a more open and collaborative development model," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Ottawa-based Eclipse Foundation.

Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst at Forrester Research, called the move significant for Java, but noted that it remains to be seen how significant it will be for developers overall.

"In some ways, developers have moved on from Java EE," Hammond argued. "They use parts that work, but are just as likely to use other app models for cloud-native applications, mobile apps and IoT [internet of things] workloads. These are also increasingly 'enterprise applications.' I think the movement to Eclipse creates a chance for the stewards on Java EE to rearticulate its relevance in the world of modern applications, and adapt it to reflect moves toward scale-out computer, containers and event-driven applications."

Specifics of the move

Specifically, with the move to Eclipse, Oracle intends to do the following:

  • Relicense Oracle-led Java EE technologies, as well as related GlassFish technologies, to the foundation. This would include Reference Implementations, Technology Compatibility Kits and associated project documentation.
  • Demonstrate the ability to build a compatible implementation -- using foundation sources -- that passes existing Java EE 8 TCKs.
  • Define a branding strategy for the platform within the foundation, including a new name for Java EE to be determined, and enable use of existing javax package names and component specification names for existing Java Specification Requests to provide continuity.
  • Define a process by which existing specifications can evolve and new specifications can be included in the platform.
  • Recruit and enable developers and other community members, as well as vendors, to sponsor platform technologies and bring the platform forward within the foundation. This would include the potential incorporation of Eclipse MicroProfile technologies into the platform.
  • Begin doing the above as soon as possible after the completion of Java EE 8 to facilitate a rapid transition.

Java governance

Simon Phipps, managing director of Meshed Insights Ltd. and former executive at Sun Microsystems who assisted with the initial move to open source Java, told TechTarget he believes Eclipse is an "extremely good" choice of host that will help to complete the process Sun started over a decade ago of liberating Java as open source.

"It has excellent governance that recognizes both the primacy of technical contribution and the inevitability of corporate politics and keeps both in balance. It's ideally suited to the complexities and politics of Java EE," he said.

Indeed, Java EE has been at the center of enterprise computing for almost 20 years, Milinkovich noted.

"As enterprises move to a more cloud-centric model, it is clear that Java EE requires a more rapid pace of innovation," he said. "The open source model has been shown time and again to be the most successful way to innovate in today's world. The Eclipse Foundation is focused on enabling open collaboration among individuals, small companies, enterprises and the largest vendors."

Milinkovich added that the Eclipse MicroProfile project is an example of the developer community-led style of collaboration the foundation supports.

"We look forward to supporting the Java EE community as it creates the platform for the next 20 years of business applications," he added.

Meanwhile, "It's great to see this move by Oracle," said Mik Kersten, CEO of Tasktop Technologies, based in Vancouver, B.C., and creator of the Eclipse Mylyn project. "Having Red Hat, IBM and Oracle working together in the uniquely open and commercial-friendly ecosystem that the Eclipse Foundation provides is going to increase the pace of innovation and keep Java EE relevant for years to come."

Transitional steward -- devil in details

However, with respect to Oracle, Forrester's Hammond referred to the company as an effective "transitional steward" for Java.

"They got Java in general moving again, but opening Java in general and Java EE in particular took a long time -- perhaps too long," he said. "Hopefully, this move will reignite innovation, accelerate feature delivery and reignite developer interest. If that happens, then it will certainly be a good move for everyone."

Sacha Labourey, CEO of CloudBees, based in San Jose, Calif., noted the issues with the Java specification and Oracle increasingly defending its own interests led to stagnation.

I would have been happier if EE had moved to Apache.
James Goslingfather of Java

"The Java EE space probably needs to inspire itself of what made the success of its competing alternative, Spring, and focus on implementation first, and share a common codebase vendors can then truly embed in larger solutions," Labourey said. "This is what the Eclipse scenario could enable. Now, the devil is in the details. For this to work, all vendors have to genuinely agree to work together; dropping code in a public repository sure won't be enough."

Phipps agreed the devil is in the details, saying, "The most critical open issue is the future standardization process. Eclipse does not have experience managing a standards process; although, the MicroProfile work has been a reasonable curtain-raiser with Red Hat and IBM collaborating."

Father of Java

Meanwhile, for his part, James Gosling, the father of Java, told TechTarget he welcomes the move. However, he said, "I would have been happier if EE had moved to Apache, but I would bet real money that IBM was a mover and shaker here, as they started Eclipse."

Gosling then offered a history of the Java integrated development environment space, noting the prominence of Eclipse there:

The late 70s and early 80s were all about text editors like Emacs and Vi. But they were getting pretty frayed once the glass tty gave way to real graphics displays and desktop processing that was significant. Developer productivity had hit a wall. But as Moore's law marched on, there was headroom to do more to assist developers, and Borland really did a great job of providing tools. The sad thing about the tool market is that it takes a lot of work to create tools, and they need to have enough revenue to succeed. But when Microsoft entered the market with Visual Studio, they set the price low enough that no one else could survive. Some good, free, open source tools are doing well: NetBeans -- my favorite -- and Eclipse. I'm really glad that IntelliJ is surviving as a real, living and breathing product.

Next Steps

Moving Java EE to the cloud

Stepping up Java EE security

Causes for Java 9 delays

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Will the Eclipse Foundation be a better steward for Java than Oracle? Why or why not?
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Only time will tell, though I was hoping for it with Apache.
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A good indication that enterprise Java is moving, and will be there for years. I'm going to suggest rebranding Java EE with Java Cloud Edition (Java CE). Sounds more modern and catchy, especially for folks working on microservices, which I believe the direction enterprise Java is going.
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It's one good thing Oracle have done.
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