Java EE fact-checking with Peter Pilgrim

Java EE Guardians speak bluntly: “Java EE cannot be run exclusively by the community”

Hartmut Schlosser
Java EE Guardians
Peter Pilgrim

Where does the future of Java EE lie? After Oracle reduced its activities concerning Java Enterprise 8, community members created a group called „Java EE Guardians“. What goals do these Guardians have? And where does Java EE 8 stand and what’s next?

In a series of interviews we asked members of the Java EE Guardians for the initiative‘s background and their interpretation of the current situation with Java EE. Our first Guardian is Peter Pilgrim, a Java EE consultant and director and owner of PEAT LTD.

JAXenter: How would you describe the actual state of Java EE 8?

Peter Pilgrim: In crisis. It is particularly disconcerting that it appears from the outside, externally from Oracle, that specification leads have “downed tools”. This is really worrying for the next step in an enterprise specification. However, I have worked in organizations where developers, designers and architects have to suddenly stop working on advancing on technology, a new proof of concept, a prototype or simply the next release, because there has been a pressing business concern that needed to be dealt with. On the other hand, an emergency does not last six months long, at least not in software engineering. 

I have one school of thought that seems an awfully long shot. It could be that Oracle, and I mean this is an extremely long throw of a Javelin over one mile, that they are rebranding the Java platforms. Because if you think about it, the editions EE, SE and ME were created at the earliest in 1999. Java belonged to Sun Microsystems at that point, it just may be that Java EE are tired old brands. A separate school of thought is that there is something else, a piece of business intelligence, know-how or market research, that we just do not understand and is yet to be revealed. After all, Oracle is a business operation just like Apple, IBM and Google and they have a right to play certain cards and keep them to their chest. This is the real concern: Oracle, like Apple, is silent. When Fabrizio Gianneschi asked about the Java EE rumors on the Java Champions user mailing list, which only we could see, there was no official response from any officer working for Oracle. So we have no choice but to wait this episode out.

SEE ALSO: “From my perspective, Oracle could withdraw from Java EE completely” [Interview with Adam Bien]

JAXenter: Are you a member of the new group called “Java EE Guardians”?

Peter Pilgrim: I signed the online petition that Reza Raman put together. Your readers ought to know that James Gosling also signed the petition. I do not organize the daily Java EE Guardian efforts, but they have my support for now. If you want to know  the objectives, then I suggest you read the new Java EE Guardian website.

JAXenter: Why did you choose to participate in the Java EE Guardians?

Peter Pilgrim: I signed the petition list because I was able to read and see the evidence of the reduction version control commits, and some of the messages on the individual mailing lists. I thought it must be that type of situation where there is some smoke, which means there must have been a fire. I recall that when Oracle was going dark with JavaFX Script in 2011, I also signed Stephen Chin’s petition to open source JavaFX. Before he joined Oracle with James Weaver as a JavaFX Evangelist, he was an avid community leader and visionary in JavaFX framework. I was of the same mind then, I still am of the same mind when it comes to securing the return of investment for Java EE for developers, designers and architects, including business stakeholders.

Oracle has to abdicate some of its responsibility and let other businesses such as Red Hat, IBM or whoever take over.

JAXenter: Do you think Java EE can exist outside of JCP?

Peter Pilgrim: No. Oracle has a legal entity and steward of the Java. It owns the Java trademark including the extension platforms. Oracle would have to reduce its authority and I do not think that will happen. At least — I do not expect this to happen.

The truth of the matter for business leaders around the globe is that Java EE represents a cost saving especially in a cost-pressure economy and environment. I strongly believe the following: should Oracle suddenly abandon Java EE, it would leave the core platform in trouble, in spite of the promise of Java SE 9 and Jigsaw. It would leave a massive hole in a vessel that would ultimately sink the entire super tanker that is the Java EE community.

I seriously doubt that Oracle would allow this to happen, because it would affect their reputational risk and share price. It would be headline news all over the platform. It does raise the following question: Why would Oracle do this? I would rather think there is a lack of human resources, suddenly my effort needs to be spent on Oracle’s bottom line businesses, whatever those are, and they are shoring up now to survive a difficult period in order to sustain the effort. If that is true, then it makes sense (business-wise) to delay, and yet to refuse to comment publicly or give the thumbs up that everything is really okay means there is a crisis of information.

I also don’t believe Oracle is moving like the old Microsoft did in the past. I doubt that Oracle would chuck out the baby and the bath water and push Java EE into an alternate standard body like ECMA. Oracle has far too much ROI within Java. Oracle has had to build cloud-computing stuff since 2009. This is a known fact. I would hazard a bet that those so-called human resources have been positioned there for the time being at the expense of any standardization efforts. After all, the lesson we learnt from Hibernate, Top Link and KodoMetric projects was that it is better to standardize on technology that already exists and proven to work. JPA (and then EJB3) was the result of those efforts. Oracle I guess wants to build their variety of Java/Cloud solution as a first priority.

I have great faith in the forthcoming Jigsaw project, because ultimately it means we could really kill legacy off for good.

JAXenter: Can Java EE be run exclusively by the community?

Peter Pilgrim: The short answer is ‘no’ because Oracle has to abdicate some of its responsibility and let other businesses such as Red Hat, IBM or whoever take over. I really cannot see it happening because Oracle once again has the power it had before the Sun Microsystem acquisition.

The longer answer may be: Oracle might consider allowing another standards body or de facto body like Apache Software Foundation or the Eclipse Foundation to self-organize with a view of later taking back control. I really cannot imagine how this would work legally without the quagmire of contracts, restrictions and encumbrances. Of course, if Oracle decides to forgo Java EE than all bets are definitely off.

JAXenter: What is your personal view of Java EE? 

Peter Pilgrim: I would personally like Java EE to survive this crisis. We all have a personal ROI with the platform, the runtime and JVM. I have great faith in the forthcoming Jigsaw project, because ultimately it means we could really kill legacy off for good. I dream of a world where we can finally chop off java.util.Date, smash CORBA and only take modules that are required into a runtime application. Obviously, Jigsaw could be a revolution for application server engineers, because if there are enough modularized libraries out there on, say, Maven central or Bintray, then it should be possible to build your custom pluggable servers — if you have a micro service server where you can choose JAX-RS, Security, CDI or JCache or distributed logging. It would also mean that laggard businesses that refused to upgrade from Java 6 to Java 9, say, would have eventually a very hard time on the long tail. We would leave them all behind. I am excited about the Jigsaw story. I want to see it now!

But back to Java EE, Oracle should at least reassure us, even if it is a subset of the Java Champions under some sort of NDA, that everything is genuinely cool! Because at the moment Java EE 8 looks seriously delayed even for 2017. I definitely want to see the Java EE 8 specification actually move forward with ideas, technology and innovations. For the Oracle specification leads, it would be great that they have an external deputy spec-lead to take forward some of the work.

Thank you very much!

Hartmut Schlosser
Hartmut Schlosser is an editor for JAXenter and a specialist in Java Enterprise-Technologies, Eclipse & ALM, Android and Business Technology. Before working at S&S Media he studied Computer Science, Music, Anthropology and French Philology.

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