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IBM joins Oracle in OpenJDK 8 effort at EclipseCon 2011

Jack Vaughan

[San Jose, CA] - Software technology leaders from Oracle and IBM appeared together on stage here at EclipseCon 2011 to announce plans to work to revive the long-stalled OpenJDK for Java.

"We want to accelerate innovation in Java," said John Duimovich, Java CTO and Distinguished Engineer, IBM. "We believe we can make Java better together."

Duimovich voiced IBM's recent concern with the slow rate of changes in the OpenJDK, which has not had a formal update since 2006. "We looked at what was going on in the Java community, and there was a lot of uncertainty," he said.

Duimovich's counterpart on stage from Oracle, former Sun executive Mark Reinhold, now Oracle Java Platform Group Chief Architect, admitted the OpenJDK had fallen on hard times in recent years. "We entered a dark time where not many things happened. It was painful," he said, citing the "demise of Sun," and a general logjam in the Java Community Process as culprits.

Both IBM and Oracle have large Java businesses, and both in fact made moves in 2009 to purchase Sun Microsystems, which held a pivotal role as inventor and steward of Java and the related J EE software stack. Oracle eventually snagged Sun.

In a road map announced at last year's JavaOne conference, Oracle said it would stick with Sun Microsystems' established licensing model for OpenJDK, and would release JDK 7 and JDK 8 tools, in 2011 and 2012, respectively. OpenJDK 7 is pegged for release in

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July of this year, and more attention will turn to OpenJDK 8 at that time.

The present plan has IBM taking an active role in creation of OpenJDK 8. Last October, IBM joined the OpenJDK group, and discontinued its work with a competitive Apache Harmony effort.

While placing representatives of the two IT giants on the same stage was news in itself, the actual presentation was short on details.

Learning phase for OpenJDK

"We are joining this project. We are still in a learning phase. We have a lot to do internally," said IBM's Duimovich, who noted that IBM Java code must be prepared and analyzed for inclusion in the OpenJDK.

If things go as planned, IBM and Oracle will contribute large portions of their software to the OpenJDK. Still, there is no doubt each will continue to closely hold some Java software inventions where they see competitive benefit.

When asked if the upcoming merged Oracle-Sun JVM (known as ''HotRocket'') would be part of the OpenJDK, Oracle's Marcus Hirt hedged.

"Some of it will make it into the OpenJDK. Some of it will be kept proprietary," said Hirt, Oracle Team Lead and Engineering Manager for the JRockit JVM.

The answer would be likely similar if posed to IBM. IBM too has a JVM, known as J9, which it repeatedly touts as a performance advantage for its customers. Competition is in both company's DNA. While pledging detente, the IBM and Oracle executives on stage found plenty of opportunities to launch mild verbal jabs at each others' product lines.


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