Do We Need a New Standards Body?

Could the OSGi Alliance Take Over JCP's Role?

It seems everyone has an opinion on the state of the JCP, and Peter Kriens is the latest in a string of prominent community members to post his take on the JCP debate; namely, that the OSGI alliance's structure is better suited to Java specifications than the JCP's.

The tricky subject of patents and copyrights are – in his opinion – not so tricky for the OSGi Alliance. All Intellectual Property is licensed to all members of the OSGi Alliance and the specifications can be implemented by non-members. When it comes to the JCP, Kriens states that "the contributions of other members in the expert groups are gladly taken for free but do not provide any rights in return." When it comes to patents, in 2006 the OSGi Alliance pledged royalty-free access to "necessary" patents which were defined as patents that accelerate "the adoption of OSGi technology worldwide." They were joined in this pledge by Nokia, IBM, Samsung, Makewave and ProSyst Software.

Peter Kriens has dealt with JSRs in the past, and in his experience the process can differ widely on the JCP – he claims this is not so with the OSGi Alliance, which implements a standardised process where requirements are addressed first in a Request For Proposal document, followed by APIs. He has found ordering a proposal in this manner is often easier, as agreements on requirements can be reached more quickly than agreements on implementation proposals. Compatibility Tests can also be obtained free of charge for qualifying open source projects.

In the interests of fairness, Peter Kriens acknowledges a few of the possible arguments against the OSGi Alliance assuming the JCP's role. He admits there is a preconceived notion of OSGi being closed, but points out that the OSGi Alliance has been releasing RFCs ahead of specifications, and that the EG works best when there is a period of time to act together before publishing. Another potential problem is money: the OSGi Alliance subscription fee is currently $25k, although there are currently plans afoot to try and introduce tiered subscription fees. Peter Kriens admits high subscription fees might be a necessary evil, in order to be "independent of the big guys" who traditionally gain more power in a supposedly equal organisation, by paying more. Another problem is that the specifications would of course take the OSGi framework into consideration, and not everyone uses this framework. However, Peter Kriens points out that this would not influence the specifications' usage outside of the OSGi framework if said specifications were properly cohesive and uncoupled.

Peter Kriens is pragmatic about the reality of the OSGI Alliance taking over the JCP's role, but the idea has been discussed in the community, with Neil Bartlett posting a thinly-veiled blog painting the OSGi Alliance as "a credible specification and standards body." He praises it as a more equal body than the JCP, and the fact that all specifications come with a non-assert patent pledge from the members.

Jessica Thornsby

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