Java-as-a-Service?

Microsoft and Azul lift OpenJDK into Azure cloud

Microsoft have made their clearest hint yet that Java is part of their long-term future, revealing plans to bring the open source implementation, OpenJDK, to cloud platform Azure.

The news, announced at this year’s OSCON, sees the software giant team up with Java Virtual Machine (JVM) vendor Azul Systems. The Sunnyvale company are expected to build certify and deliver an OpenJDK compliant distribution, that will run on top of Windows Server.

Microsoft will offer Java 7 SE, both as a standalone platform (PaaS) and as an infrastructure component before the year is out. The arrival of the official open source Java version, which will be licensed under GPLv2, allows Azure users to sidestep any proprietary versions when using Java in the cloud, as well as being theoretically able to exploit the plethora of JVM languages out there, like Groovy and Scala. There are also plans afoot to add an Eclipse plugin for simple Azure deployment.

The company has been on an acquisition drive of late, in order to reinvigorate their ailing cloud service with technologies from outside their confines. Oracle pledged in June to bring middleware, the WebLogic Server and its 11c and 12c databases to Microsoft Azure.

According to Microsoft’s Gianugo Rabellino, customers had been asking for Java support for some time, and the latest move is “complementary” to the one made by Oracle.

"The point is making sure that Windows Azure customers can use OpenJDK on our platform in a way that is fully supported and fully backed by Microsoft,” the senior director of Microsoft’s open source communities told OSCON onlookers.

Azul Systems president Scott Sellers, said the “initiative is all about bringing Java to the masses”

“We will be providing a fully open and unconstrained Java environment — with open choice of third-party stacks — for developers and essential applications deployed on Windows Azure."

Azul’s experience with Java is unquestionable with their lead product, the pauseless garbage collecting JVM Zing, having been around for over a decade. Their involvement in community matters is commendable too, since joining the Java Community Process in 2011.

The arrival of OpenJDK is long overdue, given that fellow PaaSes CloudBees, Google App Engine, Cloud Foundry and Amazon Web Services all offer the functionality as part of their services. But Microsoft must be commended for bowing to customer pressure, just as Java 8 is set to arrive, and the signs are good that Microsoft Azure can become a huge enterprise cloud contender after a less than stellar start.

The frosty relations between Microsoft and Oracle over Java in the 90s appear to be consigned to the history books then.

Chris Mayer

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