When it comes to Java virtual machines, there has never been a shortage of proprietary and open-source options that developers have been employing to build a wide range of enterprise applications. However, the adoption of open-source Java platforms has not been as widespread as many providers of these platforms have hoped, mainly because of fragmentation within the Java community.
To try and address that issue, the Eclipse Foundation has formed an Adoptium working group that includes Alibaba Cloud, Huawei, IBM, iJUG, Karakun AG, Microsoft, New Relic, and Red Hat. This group is creating a governance framework for Java binaries based on OpenJDK, an open-source implementation of Java that is compatible with Java Platform, Standard Edition. Both Java SE and OpenJDK were originally created by Oracle.
Adoptium is a set of free pre-built open source binaries created by members of the Java community that were previously known as AdoptOpenJDK. Now that AdoptOpenJDK has moved to the Eclipse Foundation, the members of Adoptium this week announced they plan to create a single Java binary dubbed Eclipse Temurin. Due out later this year, that binary will be certified under the Java SE TCK test suite created by Oracle that the Eclipse Foundation has agreed to implement. The Eclipse Temurin binary will support the various distributions of OpenJDK produced by members of the Adoptium working group.
However, it’s not clear to what degree the Java community will rally around an Eclipse Temurin binary that is tied to the HotSpot edition of the Java virtual machine (JVM) created by Oracle. Rival JVMs such as Eclipse OpenJ9, GraalVM, Azul Zulu, Apache Harmony, among others, all have their adherents and advocates.
IBM, for example, while lending its support to Adoptium, will also continue to make binaries and frameworks available that support Eclipse OpenJ9, a JVM it contributed to the Eclipse Foundation. The JVM provided via the Eclipses OpenJ9 project is twice as fast and half the size of Hotspot JVMs. IBM this week announced it is committing to certifying its own instance of an Eclipse Temurin binary for Eclipse OpenJ9 JVM at no cost to developers. In effect, IBM is committing to absorbing the cost of certification against a suite of TCK tests owned by Oracle, notes Todd Moore, vice president for open technology at IBM. “TCK is still proprietary Oracle technology,” says Moore.
In theory, open-source Java initiatives should accelerate the pace of Java innovation. Oracle has been criticized for the rate at which updates to Java have been made since it took control following its acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2009. Arguably, it’s that perceived lack of innovation that has motivated so many entities to create so many variants of JVMs and binaries. In no small measure, it’s also that perceived lack of innovation that has resulted in so many developers deciding to embrace other programming languages.
Of course, Java is still the dominant programming language in the enterprise. In fact, enterprise IT organizations to date have been somewhat skittish when it comes to employing open-source alternatives to Java technologies provided by Oracle rivals. Despite potential cost savings, there are still lots of enterprise IT organizations that have Java support contracts with Oracle. In fact, those support contracts are the primary reason Oracle remains key to retain control over the Java trademark.
The efforts of the Eclipse Foundation should eventually increase confidence in open-source Java platforms. The challenge, of course, is making sure that all vendors that provide those offerings continue to play nice with one another.