IBM Leaves Apache Harmony; Joins Oracle and OpenJDK

IBM Joins OpenJDK

Jessica Thornsby

IBM and Oracle announce they will join forces on the OpenJDK project.

IBM have announced they are joining the OpenJDK project, and discontinuing
their involvement with Apache Harmony.

This move enables Oracle and IBM to ensure compatibility across
different implementations, in addition to pooling their resources.
According to the Oracle press release, IBM is now publicly in
support of ‘Plan B,’ which proposed postponing certain features
intended for JDK 7, until the JDK 8 release, in an effort to bring
the release date of JDK 7 forward. IBM are not the only ones
lending their support to Plan B: according to Oracle, an estimated
70-80% of the community voted in favour of Plan B.

Bob Sutor, Vice President of Open Systems and Linux at IBM, has
blogged about the new collaboration, presenting
it as a positive move for the Java community: “OpenJDK represents
the best chance to provide a top notch unified open source runtime
for Java; customers will benefit by having first class Java open
standards developed collaboratively and constructively; and our
energy will be focused on working together and optimizing our joint
work, rather than wasting time on duplicative projects.”

On the technical side of things, Mark Reinhold has theorised that IBM’s engineers will focus on the class
libraries, which will enhance compatibility across the different

So, what’s in it for IBM? In return for their resources and work
on OpenJDK, IBM have certain expectations. They plan to hold a
leadership position in the OpenJDK project, and “fully expect to
have a strong say in how the project is managed and in which
technical direction it goes,” according to Sutor. They are also
expecting to see some changes at the JCP, claiming the organisation
needs to be made more open and democratic. IBM seem to have the
support of the JCP in this matter: it recently emerged that just weeks ahead of
JavaOne, the Java Community Process passed a resolution that called
for Oracle to establish the JCP as an independent, vendor-neutral
body with equal membership. Oracle declined to cast their vote on
the matter.

But, where does this leave Apache Harmony? Bob Sutor, Vice
President of Open Systems and Linux at IBM, clarifies that this
isn’t just a new partnership: the company will be shifting its
focus away from Apache Harmony to OpenJDK. IBM will continue with
its other Apache commitments. Sutor explains that IBM have come to
realise that Oracle are not about to release the Java certification
tests to Apache, meaning that lending their support to OpenJDK is,
in IBM’s eyes, a wiser choice than continuing to drive Harmony’s
uncertified Java development.

Stephen Colebourne sees this move as a pragmatic decision on IBM’s
part. Although IBM express their dislike of Oracle/Sun’s policy of
holding back the compatibility tests, they have acknowledged there
is nothing they can do to force Oracle’s hand, and have
consequently made a deal that gives them some benefits, in the form
of a lead role in the OpenJDK project and, perhaps, a stronger
position in the JCP. Colebourne calls this “clearly a good choice
for IBM, and probably the best we could hope for Java,” although he
sympathises with Harmony, saying the project is now effectively
dead and “Sun, now Oracle, have got away with murder” over the

Tim Ellison, the chair of the Apache Harmony PMC agrees that there is little chance of the project ever
receiving the much-requested compatibility test kit license, but he
seems to give the IBM/Oracle partnership his blessing, stating that
bringing “the key platform development groups together on a common
codebase” is the “right thing.”

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