The same but not quite

Oracle JDK builds vs. OpenJDK builds: Understanding the differences

Gabriela Motroc
© Shutterstock / Monster Ztudio

Donald Smith, Sr Director of Product Management in the Java Platform Group at Oracle announced last year that the company intended that “within a few releases there should be no technical differences between OpenJDK builds and Oracle JDK binaries. Are we there yet? Are there no technical differences between the two? He clears the air in a new blog post.

At last year’s Java One, Mark Cavage announced that Oracle will open source Oracle JDK’s proprietary features. Shortly before the conference, Donald Smith, Sr Director of Product Management in the Java Platform Group at Oracle wrote in a blog post that the company’s intent is that “within a few releases there should be no technical differences between OpenJDK builds and Oracle JDK binaries.”

Are we there yet? If you ask Donald Smith, the answer is yes but “with some cosmetic and packaging differences.” 

Oracle JDK builds vs. OpenJDK builds: The story so far

It’s been one year since it was first announced that there should be little to no technical difference between OpenJDK builds and Oracle JDK binaries but this conversation shows no signs of stopping.

In September 2017, we invited Uwe Schindler, Apache Lucene PMC Member and Contributor of the OpenJDK Project, to weigh in on the proposed changes. Here’s what he said:

The Java Core has been the same for OpenJDK Builds and Oracle Builds since Java 7, so you could easily change between versions starting from Java 7. At least when working in server environments. So yes, one could say “Java is open source” to that.

Still, there have been differences concerning the implementation of some components. Foremost that concerned GUI-environments (AWT/Swing) where some parts were omitted in OpenJDK (sound output, options for graphic editing).

– Uwe Schindler

Read the full interview here

One can, of course, choose to use Oracle JDK builds but since “Java is now developed as OpenJDK,” as Stephen Colebourne pointed out in a recent blog post, there are more choices out there.

A key point to grasp is that most JDK builds in the world are based on the open source OpenJDK project. The Oracle JDK is merely one of many builds that are based on the OpenJDK codebase. While it used to be the case that Oracle had additional extras in their JDK, as of Java 11 this is no longer the case.

For the first 6 months of Java 11’s life, Oracle will be providing GPL+CE licensed $free zero-cost downloads at with security patches. To get GPL+CE licensed $free zero-cost update releases of Java 11 after the first six months, you are likely to need to obtain them from a different URL and a different build team.

Stephen Colebourne

Read more about the costs involved here and here

We will explore this topic in-depth at JAX London.

Understanding the differences between Oracle JDK builds & OpenJDK builds

BCL” license no more! Donald Smith explained in a recent blog post that JDK 11 will mark the beginning of a new era, one in which the tech giant offers “JDK releases under the open source GNU General Public License v2, with the Classpath Exception (GPLv2+CPE), and under a commercial license for those using the Oracle JDK as part of an Oracle product or service, or who do not wish to use open source software.”

Different builds will be provided for each license, but these builds are functionally identical aside from some cosmetic and packaging differences.

Donald Smith

From Java 11 -which will be released on September 25– forward, Oracle JDK builds and OpenJDK builds will be essentially identical, he added. However, there will be some “cosmetic and packaging differences.” 

Here are the changes, as explained by Donald Smith:

  • Oracle JDK 11 emits a warning when using the -XX:+UnlockCommercialFeatures option, whereas in OpenJDK builds this option results in an error. This option was never part of OpenJDK and it would not make sense to add it now since there are no commercial features in OpenJDK. This difference remains in order to make it easier for users of Oracle JDK 10 and earlier releases to migrate to Oracle JDK 11 and later.
  • Oracle JDK 11 can be configured to provide usage log data to the “Advanced Management Console” tool, which is a separate commercial Oracle product.  We will work with other OpenJDK contributors to discuss how such usage data may be useful in OpenJDK in future releases, if at all.   This difference remains primarily to provide a consistent experience to Oracle customers until such decisions are made.
  • The javac –release command behaves differently for the Java 9 and Java 10 targets, since in those releases the Oracle JDK contained some additional modules that were not part of corresponding OpenJDK releases:
    • javafx.base
    • javafx.controls
    • javafx.fxml
    • javafx.web
    • java.jnlp
    • jdk.jfr
    • jdk.snmp

This difference remains in order to provide a consistent experience for specific kinds of legacy use. These modules are either now available separately as part of OpenJFX, are now in both OpenJDK and the Oracle JDK because they were commercial features which Oracle contributed to OpenJDK (e.g., Flight Recorder), or were removed from Oracle JDK 11 (e.g., JNLP).

  • The output of the java –version and java -fullversion commands will distinguish Oracle JDK builds from OpenJDK builds, so that support teams can diagnose any issues that may exist.  Specifically, running java –version with an Oracle JDK 11 build results in:

java 11 2018-09-25

Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment 18.9 (build 11+28)

Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM 18.9 (build 11+28, mixed mode)

And for an OpenJDK 11 build:

openjdk version “11” 2018-09-25

OpenJDK Runtime Environment 18.9 (build 11+28)

OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM 18.9 (build 11+28, mixed mode)

  • The Oracle JDK has always required third party cryptographic providers to be signed by a known certificate.  The cryptography framework in OpenJDK has an open cryptographic interface, meaning it does not restrict which providers can be used.  Oracle JDK 11 will continue to require a valid signature, and Oracle OpenJDK builds will continue to allow the use of either a valid signature or unsigned third party crypto provider. 
  • Oracle JDK 11 will continue to include installers, branding and JRE packaging for an experience consistent with legacy desktop uses.

    Oracle OpenJDK builds are currently available as zip and tar.gz files, while alternative distribution formats are being considered.



Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc was editor of and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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Edward Resleff
Edward Resleff
2 years ago

After researching/reviewing many sites and blog-posts for months and trying to pull relevant information out of Oracle, your analysis succinctly captures the bits and pieces into one coherent article which spells out everything I need to know to make an informed decision – to continue with Oracle JDK or migrate to OpenJDK.