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Charles Babcock
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Apache Leaves Java Community Process

The Apache Software Foundation has resigned from the Oracle-dominated JCP because it believes it's being thwarted by Oracle on its Harmony initiative.

The Apache Software Foundation, a key contributor to the Java language, has resigned from the Oracle-dominated Java Community Process (JCP), which provides technology additions to Java.

The move was prompted by procedural and technical issues that are somewhat convoluted for non-JCP members to grasp. But the withdrawal of the high-profile advocate of open source code may still produce fallout that Oracle, accused of trying to stifle a potentially competing Apache Harmony initiative, would rather avoid.

In a recent vote, several executive committee members voted with the foundation against proceeding on the next two versions of Java until the Harmony issue was resolved.

The Apache Foundation has insisted that if Java Standard Edition is open source code, then the foundation has a right to create an alternative, compatible version of the Java Virtual Machine. The code exists, produced by Apache's Harmony project. But Harmony's developers can't get access to the large library of compatibility tests -- over 30,000 of them -- now controlled by Oracle.

Running Harmony through the tests would potentially certify it as a Java-compatible product and offer the marketplace a second source of the JVM. In the open source world, that's considered fair play; Oracle appears to think otherwise.

The foundation previously sparred with Sun Microsystems on the same issue when Sun shepherded the community process. Since Sun's takeover by Oracle, Apache has sought access to the tests and solicited recognition from Oracle that Harmony has a right to exist under Apache's own open source software license. It's failed to obtain a commitment from Oracle on either point. Before the vote to proceed with Java Standard Editions 7 and 8 this week, it announced it opposes continuation and would resign if a majority of the executive committee refused to support its stance.

That move picked up support from Google, which has been a strong Java backer since Sun made its Java open source commitment. (Oracle is suing Google over the use of a look-alike Java virtual machine in its Android mobile operating system.) IBM, SAP, the Eclipse Foundation, and Credit Suisse voted with Oracle on continuation but added comments that Oracle should live up to the open licensing rules governing the JCP.

But halting progress on Java was too large a pill for a majority of the remaining members to swallow, and the vote authorized continued work on SE 7 and 8.

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