Developers still skeptical of Oracle’s stewardship of Java

More than a year after Oracle completed its acquisition of Sun Microsystems and the Java programming language, Java developers are still wary of Oracle’s intentions.

LAS VEGAS – Java developers say they are still wary of how Oracle will shepherd the Java programming languages despite Oracle executives’ claims that they plan to keep Java “vibrant.”

It has been more than a year since Oracle completed its acquisition of Sun Microsystems and, hence, of Java. Some developers at TheServerSide Java Symposium in Las Vegas this week said they haven’t seen as much of a commitment to the Java community as they would like, and they’re skeptical about Oracle’s intention with Java.

“The community aspect of Java is disappearing,” said Deva, senior developer for a health care company who didn’t want his last name or company name used because of corporate rules about speaking to the press. “The way Oracle is handling Java is making developers really nervous.”

Deva continued, saying that he thinks Oracle is pushing hard on the marketing side of Java and not as much on the open source aspect of it, which, he said, “has been the soul of Java.”

Stephen Wilson, systems engineer for a leading software company, said he wonders what Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s “end game” is. “You wonder if he’s going to bring everyone into Java, and then flip a switch and say, ‘Sorry, now you have to pay for it’.”

“(Ellison) wants to own every piece of the IT organization,” Wilson added. “He’s not out there to be a philanthropist.”

Not everyone agrees, however.

“Initially I figured that Oracle just wanted to profit on Java,” said Carlos Alfonzo Ortiz, architect at Cartagena Regional Port in Columbia. “After hearing them today, I think they have a good plan for their platform.”

James Gosling, considered the father of Java, said during his keynote session at the Java Symposium that it is in Oracle’s own interest to “not be really aggressively stupid.” But he said it’s been clear that Oracle didn’t exactly know what it was getting into with the acquisition of Java.

“It’s been clear that they didn’t understand what they bought; what it meant to deal with communities and people, and all the arguing and discussion and consensus building that’s involved in communities,” he said.

Oracle executives said they understand the skepticism among developers but feel that if they keep releasing new features of the Java platform that eventually people will come around. Adam Messinger, VP of development for Oracle Fusion Middleware, acknowledged that most people see Oracle as a company that is focused first and foremost on making money. He didn’t deny the claim in any way, saying only that the company seeks to develop and support Java simply because Java is the foundation for so much of what Oracle offers in the middleware and application space.

“On the strategy, it’s not like it’s benevolent exactly,” he said. “It is more or less enlightened self-interest.”

He later added that “the focus is definitely on keeping the businesses that we had already built on top of Java healthy and growing.”

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