Azul introduces Medium-Term Support for Java
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In addition to the short and long-term support releases of Java, there is now a third variant. Azul Systems has introduced the Medium Term Support (MTS) for its Java distributions. What is it all about?
Let’s start with some background: With Java 9 in 2017, Oracle introduced a new publishing scheme for Java versions. Since then, new Java versions based on the OpenJDK binaries have been released every 6 months. Oracle only provides free updates for the current version of the OpenJDK. If you want support after the 6-month period has expired, you can sign a license agreement with one of the JDK vendors. And there are some of them now, as Martijn Verburg from the AdoptOpenJDK project recently demonstrated at JAX London:
Every three years, Oracle releases a Java version with Long-Term Support (LTS) for which the company offers longer-term support in exchange for a commercial license. Other JDK vendors such as Azul Systems, Red Hat, and Amazon have mostly adapted to this system – but there is no need to do so.
Azul Systems has now decided to extend this two-track system of 6-month short-term and 3-year long-term releases. As Simon Ritter reports in the Azul blog, the company plans to include a so-called Medium-Term Support (MTS) in their portfolio.
Medium-term support (MTS) for Java
How should this medium-term support work? Quite simple, actually:
Azul will choose two Java versions between the LTS versions and declare them as MTS versions. For these MTS versions Azul wants to provide long-term updates, up to 18 months after the release of the next LTS version.
Simon Ritter illustrates the scheme with the following diagram:
Simon Ritter justifies this step with the fact that for many companies the choice between a 6-month and a 3-year update cycle is too inflexible. Short-term releases can also include interesting new features that, for some companies, may be available only years later, depending on the company’s update strategy:
Given the rapid rate of change of the JDK and the continued introduction of new features, it may be the case that a really useful feature is delivered between LTS releases. If you were keen to deploy that JDK into production, you would be faced with having to switch to each new JDK until the next LTS release in order to maintain the maximum level of security and stability. This could be up to 30 months in the most extreme case.
It should be noted that the MTS releases relate exclusively to the JDKs offered by Zulu, i.e. in particular to Azul Zulu Enterprise. However, Simon Ritter assures that the MTS updates will also be included in the free Zulu Community versions.
The first MTS version of Zulu is the current version 13 of the JDK. The next MTS version has already been named: JDK 15.
Java developers are getting more options which Java distribution they can use – good news for the moment! However, the situation is getting more complicated. Therefore the metaphor of Simon Ritter: Java developers now have the choice between a small espresso (short-term version), a medium café crema (MTS version) and a large pot of coffee (LTS):
To use a certain well-known coffee chain’s cup sizes as an analogy, you now have three choices in terms of how long you can get updates to your JDK. Tall for feature releases, Grande for the new MTS from Azul and Venti for LTS. Which one is right for you?