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Is Java as we know it doomed?

Paul Krill | April 22, 2009
While Oracle and Sun Microsystems are hailing Oracle's purchase of Sun as a big boost for Java, others are not so sure.

Less optimistic, though, is Tibco's Ranadive, who asked whether Oracle can be trusted not to manipulate Java to its own ends. Oracle competitors such as SAP rely on Java, and they now must consider the impacts of the Sun acquisition, he said: "As you continue to put more eggs in the Java basket and your biggest competitor owns Java, what you do?"

And Ranadive doesn't think Java's open source status means all that much. In Java's case, the label "open source is a bit of an oxymoron. It's really not open as such," he says. "All control [of an open source software project] rests with the party that offers it. It used to be Sun and now it'll be Oracle." Ranadive anticipates Oracle will dominate the JCP.

SpringSource's Johnson also expressed fears over Oracle's effects on the JCP. He serves as a JCP executive committee member. "I think that there will be a lot of concern about Oracle potentially making the rules for Java," he said. Ironically, that fear may force the open source community to more aggressively assert stewardship of Java, he added.

Neil McAllister, an InfoWorld blogger who speculated earlier this month that Oracle might buy, anticipates changes in the JCP. "I think you will see Oracle having a lot more heft in the JCP but also maybe it will change direction a little bit, as far as what areas of Java development it sees as being important or relevant," he said.

How Oracle's ownership may help Java

At the Eclipse Foundation, an open source tools organization that has counted Oracle as a member but not Sun, Executive Director Mike Milinkovich sees the merger as a "very positive sign for Java and open source." Oracle "will be able to provide the resources and leadership to continue the innovation in the Java community. I see their support for OSGi and Eclipse Equinox as being key to driving the next generation of runtime middleware based on the OSGi standard," he added.

Also optimistic is Matt Asay, vice president of development at Alfresco, who said Oracle will be good for Java. "In some ways, it might even be better than Sun." That's because Sun has "never been willing to fully let go of the reins. Oracle doesn't need to monetize it directly. It just wants to make sure that Java flourishes," he said.

Battles with IBM foreseen

Bill Roth, vice president of product management at GSI Commerce and a former Sun and BEA employee who left BEA after Oracle acquired the company last year, was not optimistic about Java's fate. "I believe that this acquisition means the death of Java," he said."I believe fighting between IBM and Oracle will lead to the end of 'write once, run anywhere'" for Java, Roth said. "There will inevitably be some disagreement between the owner of Java, Oracle, and IBM, [which] has invested billions in the technology. I cannot imagine that IBM would blithely let Oracle determine the future of a technology so embedded in its software stack without a fight. IBM's only recourse will be to fork the code," he added.


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