Interview with Howard Green of Azul Systems

If there are no feature differences between OpenJDK builds and Oracle JDK binaries, why would anyone choose to go down the proprietary path?

Gabriela Motroc
JDK binaries
Howard Green

A more rapid cadence has been desired almost since Java’s inception — now that it’s finally happening, Java could get the boost it needs to be on a par with more modern languages. We talked with Howard Green, Vice President of Marketing at Azul Systems about Java 8’s “End of Life,” the transition from OpenJDK builds to Oracle JDK binaries and how developers should prepare for the next chapter.

Earlier this month, Mark Reinhold, the Chief Architect of the Java Platform Group at Oracle, proposed that the Java SE Platform and the JDK go from “the historical feature-driven release model to a strict, time-based model with a new feature release every six months, update releases every quarter, and a long-term support release every three years.”

That’s fast enough to minimize the pain of waiting for the next train yet slow enough that we can still deliver each release at a high level of quality, preserving Java’s key long-term values of compatibility, reliability, and thoughtful evolution.

“No technical differences between OpenJDK builds and Oracle JDK binaries”

The new time-based release cadence is indeed a very important announcement but another part of the proposal is (at least) as interesting as the new model, namely the plan to ship OpenJDK builds under the GPL.

Read more about GNU General Public License here.

As Mike Milinkovich, Executive Director of the Eclipse Foundation wrote in a new blog post titled Java: Free at last, this means that “Java will finally be freed of the explicit and implicit field of use restrictions which have dogged it since its invention. Developers will be free to use Java on any device, without requiring any additional licensing or other permission.”

Making Java binaries available directly from OpenJDK is going to free the Java platform for developers. Getting these directly from the platform owner, and (more importantly) having them be identical to the commercial binaries is a radical step forward. OpenJDK-based binaries will be exactly on par with, and equivalent to, the commercial ones. Although almost all of the Java source code has been open source at OpenJDK for many years, the subtle differences in content, performance, and reliability have prevented mainstream adoption of OpenJDK binaries by enterprises and industrials.

Mike Milinkovich, Executive Director of the Eclipse Foundation

 

We talked with Howard Green, Vice President of Marketing at Azul Systems about Java 8’s “End of Life,” the transition from OpenJDK builds to Oracle JDK binaries and how developers should prepare for the next chapter. 

“JDK 9 is not as interesting for developers as JDK 8”

JAXenter: It seems that there will be no Java 10. The next major release after Java 9 will be 18.3, and the next long-term-supported release is 18.9. While Java 8 is a long term supported release, Java 9 won’t be. The first long-term-supported release after Java 8 will be 18.9, which suggests that Java 8 “End of Life” is likely going to be around September of 2018. How do you feel about this news?

Howard Green: We’d hope that the JDK 8 end of life would be at least a year after the GA of JDK 9. The standard Oracle cadence has slipped by months (if not years) at various times in the past. Given the widespread adoption of JDK 8, we suspect Oracle may choose to extend its support lifespan, especially if uptake of JDK 9 isn’t as rapid as JDK 8. 

JDK 9 doesn’t bring a lot of new high-impact language-specific features, so it isn’t (from our perspective) as interesting for developers as JDK 8. 

JAXenter: Martijn Verburg said that he is pleased with Oracle’s proposal to increase the cadence. Do you agree with him? What does this mean to the market?

Howard Green: We agree with Martijn’s perspective. A more rapid cadence has been desired almost since Java’s inception, and this planned change may help to get Java on the same footing as more modern languages. From an overall market perspective, the stakes are different, because for the enterprise Java is generally the default for most core business applications, and that trend isn’t likely to change much in the foreseeable future.  

Getting powerful new features that were pioneered in other languages into the hands of Java developers is certainly a positive signal for the community.

JAXenter: How should users prepare for this next chapter?

Howard Green: The same way they would approach any major release of business-critical software —work with early access builds to understand emerging features, modify existing applications when there is a strong benefit to do so, and deploy new features when they enhance either developer productivity or overall system performance. 

JAXenter: Oracle’s intent is that transitioning between OpenJDK and Oracle JDK binaries should be seamless, and that implies there should be no feature differences at all — this is what Donald Smith told us last week. Do you think this will confuse users? How should they move forward in order to make it easier for developers?

Howard Green: This remains an open question. If there are no differentiating features why would anyone choose to go down the proprietary path?

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We talked with Donald Smith, Senior Director of Product Management for Java SE at Oracle, about the proposal and its implications. Find the interview here.

If you’d like to know more about Oracle’s proposal to increase the release cadence of Java SE to every six months and meet the top movers and shakers in the Java scene, join us in London next month.

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Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is an online editor for JAXenter.com. Before working at S&S Media she studied International Communication Management at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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