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

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

December 9, 2010

3 Min Read

Two individuals on the executive committee appointed to represent the interests of independent Java developers supported the Apache position.

"The last straw for me was Oracle's failure to address the ambiguous licensing terms (in Java specification requests for SE7 and 8)... At first I abstained, but I was so dismayed by Oracle's silence that I changed my vote to no," wrote Tim Peierls in a blog posted Dec. 7.

The second independent representative, Doug Lea, declined to stand for re-election to the executive committee, explaining in an Oct. 22 blog: "I believe the JCP is no longer a credible specification and standards body, and there is no remaining useful role for an independent advocate."

Oracle has done little that Apache representatives can show provoked the confrontation and might say it hasn't done anything differently than Sun. Oracle spokesmen were not available to comment Thursday night. But Lew Tucker, former head of Sun's cloud computing efforts and now CTO of cloud computing at Cisco Systems, said Dec. 9, "We were this close to getting this issue resolved," prior to the sale of Sun to Oracle. It was Sun's intent to reach a resolution, he said.

Paul Fremantle, CTO of the open source middleware supplier WSO2, served in the JCP five years ago when he co-headed of the Java WSDL working group, a team that produced a Java API for the Web Services Definition Language. The API became the first part of Java to become open source code, ahead of the language itself.

Reached in London, Fremantle said the dispute appears to be procedural but there is a strong legal basis for Apache taking the stance that it did. Every JCP member signs something called the Java Specification Participation Agreement. He is no longer a member of the JCP, but both he and Apache representatives believe the JSPA requires the Java test suite to be made available to any party producing Java code that will be issued "under a reasonable license."

The foundation's Harmony project represents 643 engineering years from contributors around the world and produced a Java Virtual Machine that has a market value of $35 million, according to the Web site Ohloh, which applies standard metrics to the value of open source projects.

Fremantle says Oracle knows such an alternative in the market will reduce its ability to charge cell phone makers and telecom carrier application builders for the right to use the JVM in smartphones, a popular current use and source of Java revenue. Under both Sun and Oracle, the Mobile Edition of Java has not been made open source; Harmony might give the highly competitive mobile phone market an avenue around that restriction.

"Oracle is putting the interests of its shareholders above the interests of the Java ecosystem," he charged. "If the Apache Software Foundation were a commercial company, it would be suing Oracle" for breach of contract, he said.

Fremantle was an IBM senior technical staff member at the time he served in the JSP. Fremantle's firm includes 50 developers who contribute Java code regularly to Apache projects.

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About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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