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Although it's nearly 25 years old, the Java programming language has gained renewed interest lately from major cloud platform providers -- namely, AWS and Microsoft.
For instance, this week AWS joined the Java Community Process (JCP), the governing body that manages the process of adding new features or specifications to the Java language and platform.
After more than 25 years being a workhorse programming language for enterprise applications and systems development, there is a ton of Java code out in the wild. And as more organizations move their Java workloads to the cloud, cloud platform providers are vying for those organizations to bring their Java apps to these vendors' clouds.
'You have to play nice with the community'
Amazon itself runs thousands of Java production services. And over the last few years, AWS has been courting Java developers in earnest.
"Java has the largest developer community, with between 10 million and 15 million developers," said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research in San Francisco. "If you want to attract enterprise workloads, you have to play nice with the community. And then you want to influence it on doing the 'right' things for the cloud era."
In 2016, the company started building its own distribution of OpenJDK, the free and open source implementation of the Java Platform, Standard Edition. Amazon uses its OpenJDK distribution, known as Corretto, to run AWS and other Amazon services, said Yishai Galatzer, manager of the Artifacts and Languages Group in the AWS Developer Tools unit, in a blog post.
Galatzer's team builds and distributes Amazon Corretto and built the Java Development Kit (JDK) that powers Amazon's services, he said. Last year, Amazon released Corretto as an open source project.
In addition, Amazon began to contribute its patches to the OpenJDK project and also last year started to help maintain the OpenJDK 8 and OpenJDK 11 projects, Galatzer said. And with a focus on security, Amazon joined the Java Vulnerability Group to help address security issues in JDK 8 and JDK 11, he said. In that same vein, Amazon released in July its Amazon Corretto Crypto Provider, which implements standard Java Cryptography Architecture interfaces and provides high-performance cryptographic operations for all the OpenJDK operations, Galatzer said.
Now, with its membership in the Java Community Process, AWS has a direct line to influencing the future of Java -- a matter of particular importance, as Java evolves to suit the requirements for cloud-native computing.
Cameron PurdyCEO, Xqiz.it
"Amazon is trying to engage with the developer community, so it really makes sense to jump on the 'trend train,'" said Cameron Purdy, CEO of Xqiz.it in Lexington, Mass., and former senior vice president of development at Oracle, where he oversaw key Java projects.
In recent years, AWS hired key Java experts, including Java creator James Gosling and Arun Gupta, who held core Java evangelism roles at both Sun Microsystems and Oracle after it acquired Sun in 2010.
Purdy says AWS' interest in a role on the JCP seems quite natural for two reasons: "First, Amazon has hired some of the former Sun Java evangelism team, and they're eager to engage with that community," he said. "And second, Amazon now has their own distribution of the OpenJDK, so it makes sense to be involved."
However, more cynical observers surmise that Amazon's membership in the Java Community Process could be a condition of the company gaining the Java Technology Compatibility Kit license agreement that Amazon needs in order to claim that Corretto is a compatible OpenJDK implementation.
Moreover, Oracle gains as it gets Amazon's brand attached to the JCP, and Amazon is now part of the patent non-aggression pact that supports Java.
Microsoft ramping up its Java presence
Meanwhile, Microsoft has made its own strong moves in the Java market, including its acquisition of jClarity in August to optimize its Azure cloud platform to run Java workloads. The jClarity acquisition also brings the core team behind the AdoptOpenJDK distribution of OpenJDK under the auspices of Microsoft.
Also, earlier in October, Microsoft and Pivotal teamed up to deliver Azure Spring Cloud, a service for Spring Boot apps designed to help developers build scalable microservices without the need to configure underlying infrastructure.