JavaIBM Joins Oracle in OpenJDK Effort

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After years of avoidance, IBM is now joining the Oracle-led open source OpenJDK effort. The OpenJDK is an open source reference implementation of the Java platform. By finally bringing IBM into the OpenJDK fold — something that Sun Microsystems was unable to do — Oracle is helping to cement its position as the leader of the Java community.

“Looking at the collaboration we’ll be doing with Oracle really starts to take away the uncertainly around the future of Java,” Rod Smith, vice president, emerging technologies, at IBM said on a conference call with press. “We’ll compete on our commercial offerings, but now we’ll have another level of collaboration around advancing Java technology. This really does signal to our customers and to open source developers a real long-term support for Java technologies.”

Oracle acquired stewardship of Java when it acquired Sun earlier this year. IBM is coming a bit late to the OpenJDK effort. Open source Linux and middleware vendor Red Hat joined the OpenJDK effort back in 2007. At the time Simon Phipps, then Sun’s chief open source officer told that he was hopeful that IBM would join OpenJDK too.

In response to a question from Smith noted that there are a number of reasons why IBM is now embracing OpenJDK, whereas before they stayed away from the effort.

“While Sun expressed some interest, from our perspective, there wasn’t a real dialogue on it (OpenJDK),” Smith said. “This is probably the first time that we’ve had dialogue, and we’re pleased to have a dialogue with Oracle on it and we have a lot in common. It has just been recently that doors have opened.”

By joining with OpenJDK, IBM is also hoping to help accelerate Java development. Smith noted that working directly with the OpenJDK community gives IBM the opportunity to commit bug fixes and other feature improvements.

From Oracle’s perspective, bringing in IBM to the OpenJDK community is all part of its own maturation process for growing Java.

“It took us a little time to onboard Java and understand exactly what we wanted to achieve,” Adam Messinger, vice president of development in the Fusion Middleware group at Oracle, said. “Now that we’re through that part, you’ll see us acting fairly decisively with Java. In this case, there are a lot shared interests; we both have giant businesses built on top of Java.”

IBM has been a backer of rival efforts to the OpenJDK, including the Apache Harmony project. With the new OpenJDK involvement, IBM isn’t abandoning Apache, though there will be a shift in focus.

“We thought that collaborating on a single open source project will deliver the type of innovation we need and do it faster with the overall community,” Smith said. “We will continue to support Harmony, but our main efforts will be directed to OpenJDK and that will be our strategic and primary focus.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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