As was recently announced, Azul Systems is currently working with Microsoft to create a customized Java runtime, based on the OpenJDK, that will run on the Windows Server operating system in the Azure cloud. "The Microsoft Open Technologies (MS Open Tech) subsidiary of the technology giant, which is tasked with bridging Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies, is partnering with Azul Systems to fulfill its mission and obviously hopes to make open source Java-based apps and other tools more accessible on the Azure cloud platform." But what does this mean for the enterprise Java community, and what does the Java ecosystem stand to gain?
After all, it's not as though Java is verboten in the Windows Server world. There has never been anything stopping a software architect from designing a Windows Azure system based around a Java runtime, and nothing is stopping an administrator from installing a JDK on an Azure hosted Windows Server setup. However, as innocent and innocuous as this process sounds, it actually presents a bit of a problem.
Java as a second-class citizen
On most cloud computing platforms supporting enterprise Java deployment, Java is a first class citizen, optimized for the given runtime, and available directly through the cloud computing provider. It's not simply a software program that gets installed as though it were a decompression utility like WinRAR or 7-Zip. And of course, if an administrator was to install the JDK on the Azure platform, that JDK would likely be obtained from Oracle, and the manner in which the Oracle JVM distribution licenses work can be confusing, which is itself enough to scare off a Java EE shop looking to embrace the Microsoft cloud.
The option to install the OpenJDK on Azure has always been an option, but it is also an unsupported option, which for many organizations means that it is not an option at all. But with Azul's emergence on the scene, all of that changes.
Azul has pledged to work with Microsoft to take the OpenJDK and optimize it for the Microsoft Azure platform. "Until this offering, running Java based apps on Windows was a lot more clunky than on other operating systems and other clouds. We have bridged that gap," said Azul Systems' CTO Gil Tene.
Premier Java support on the Azure platform
And the OpenJDK will not only become a first-class component on the Azure platform, where it can be installed seamlessly as though it were just another part of the operating system, but the OpenJDK will also become a supported component, so if problems arise or support questions need to be answered, Microsoft and Azul will be there to guide the client along. Furthermore, since the JVM isn't provided through IBM or Oracle, the implementation is guaranteed to be vendor neutral. "There is no tie in between this JVM and a specific app server or specific stack of other Java technologies," said Tene.
And of course, while Azul is perfecting the integration of the OpenJDK, Microsoft will be enhancing their Eclipse based plug-ins to help simplify integration, giving the developer a mechanism to develop and deploy to the cloud in a simplified manner, owing of course to the integration and unification of both Azure and the OpenJDK runtime. "There will be a strong and simple integration of Java into common deployment and development tools like the Eclipse IDE," said Tene.
Enterprise Java professionals have a history of being leery of Microsoft offerings, but with Azul empowering the Java technology, and Microsoft allowing full integration, there are now more reasons than ever for enterprise Java professionals to entertain the idea of moving to the Azure, cloud computing platform
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