Life at Eclipse

Musings on the Eclipse Foundation, the community and the ecosystem

Java 7 Vote

Stephen Colebourne correctly pointed out in his blog this morning that when the Java 7 JSR is proposed to the JCP Executive Committee, that the Eclipse Foundation will vote “yes”. I think that it would be helpful to explain why that is the case.

First, some history. The Eclipse Foundation has been on the JCP EC for three years. The dispute between Apache and Sun (now Oracle) regarding proposed field-of-use (FOU) restrictions placed on Apache Harmony predates our tenure. At every opportunity during those three years we have supported Apache’s position, including explaining to corporate representatives why this is such a big deal for an open source community. We agree that Apache Harmony should have received an unencumbered TCK license and our votes consistently supported various resolutions on this matter.

However, the time has come to move on.

For over three years now, Java has been stagnating as a language and a platform. As I said a few days ago, they “…have been years of stalemate, lack of innovation and lost opportunities.” At some point this lack of progress becomes an existential question. If Java does not start to progress as a platform, it will die. It has already suffered an enormous loss of momentum.

It is really important to understand that the JCP EC does not have the power to grant Apache a TCK license, only Oracle can do that. If the JCP had the power, Apache would have had their TCK years ago. So at its essence, this is a contract dispute between the Apache Software Foundation and Sun Microsystems (now Oracle). There are only three ways that this intractable dispute can be resolved:

  1. Oracle caves. Well, we all know that’s not going to happen. Sun did not cave for three years, and Oracle has made it abundantly clear that they’re not going to. If IBM couldn’t find some leverage, I don’t see how the open source communities will.
  2. Apache sues. Even if Apache had the resources, I am guessing their legal counsel would advise against it. Lawsuits are legal warfare, with all of the potential for unintended consequences and collateral damage that statement implies.
  3. We move on. Realistically, this is the only option left. As much as continuing the fight appeals to the heart I cannot see how this dispute will ever reach closure. Although I certainly understand the natural inclination to want to continue the struggle against the slings and arrows of corporate behaviour, I just honestly believe that at this point it is beyond reasonableness to do so.

Note that our position is not making any assumptions about the future of Apache Harmony. Hopefully others will step in and carry the project forward. But that is not an argument for continuing the impasse blocking the future of the Java platform.

Therefore, we are going to vote based on the technical merits of Java 7. From our point of view “Plan B” defines the logical next steps for the Java platform. Java 8 is a different story and left for another blog post.

Written by Mike Milinkovich

October 13, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Foundation, Open Source

12 Responses

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  1. I think that Eclipse Foundation votes on the JCP (if Eclipse remains on the JCP) should be based upon a direct committer vote. Seems to me that the committers (not the Board, not the Strategics, and not you) should be making those vote choices. In my view the whole governance of Java/JCP is such a profound corporate-induced ******-up mess that there needs to be some actual voting power put back in hands of the people that matter.

    Scott Lewis

    October 14, 2010 at 11:52 am

  2. Scott, I am sorry but I respectfully disagree. FYI, the architecture council is asked about the technical merits of JSRs before we vote.

    Mike Milinkovich

    October 14, 2010 at 2:37 pm

  3. Isn’t there another option, the foundation could license the TCK. This may go against some people’s convictions, but I suspect they have to buy equipment, supplies, etc. Maybe Google or someone else could purchase it for use with the Apache project.


    November 6, 2010 at 8:47 pm

  4. Eric, I am not sure if I understand your comment? If the Eclipse Foundation was to license the TCK, we would not have the right to sub-license or sell it to any other party.

    Mike Milinkovich

    November 7, 2010 at 10:04 am

  5. Hi Mike,

    Not wearing any Apache hat here, just stating my own opinion

    I respectfully see your decision as weak. Just because Oracle decide not to respect the contract Sun signed with The ASF, you (the Eclipse Foundation) decide that, well, who cares, they are just too big, and we just have to push the dust under the carpet.

    Such a position won’t make the dust vanishes. It’s just a clear message to Oracle : “hey, you can do whatever you want, we will bend over in the future”.

    No, it’s not time to move on, it’s time to stand by a firm position, and tell the world that either Java is fully open, or Java is dead.

    The ASF is *not* responsible for Java stagnation. Sun was, Oracle is now. The fact that Oracle, IBM, and many, supported The ASF position was a clear signal to Sun that the way Java was driven was wrong. That Oracle suddenly turned back and changed its mind does not change a thing.

    So Java might die ? Yes, and more surely if we let Oracle drive the language the way it does now. Voting yes will be the first of a long list of defeats.

    Will it be a big problem if Java dies ? Yes, and no. Yes, because companies, like IBM, have invested massively in this technology in the past ten years. And no, because this will open doors to better alternatives, to *open* alternatives.

    I see clearly how The Eclipse Foundation, heavily founded by Oracle and IBM, has some sort of agenda that requires it to vote yes. But please, don’t tell us that it will be good for Java. (I guess that there is no way for Eclipse to vote NO without huge consequences on many of the eclipse employees payroll…)

    As Churchill told Chamberlain when he came back from Munich :”You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”, it’s likely to be the same if we withdraw our common position, IMHO.


    November 7, 2010 at 11:17 am

  6. Emmanuel,

    I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

    The Eclipse community is a Java community. As Java goes, we go. My job is to ensure the long-term health of the Eclipse Foundation on behalf of its members. Yes, IBM and Oracle are big members but they are but two of hundreds, including our committers. Implying that theirs are the only interests we’re considering is simply an invalid assumption.

    Time will tell whether Oracle’s stewardship of Java is successful. But there is no doubt whatsoever that indefinitely continuing the three-year-old deadlock would result in Java’s demise.

    Mike Milinkovich

    November 8, 2010 at 10:39 am

  7. Mike,

    you can depict Eclipse as a foundation with hundreds of members, but the truth is that its structure is totally different. You have at least three layers :
    – Strategic members, like IBM and Oracle : 14
    – Entrerprise members : only 3
    – Solution members and Associate members : the rest of the members, hundreds.

    Those who drive the future of eclipse are the Strategic members, and you know that.

    IBM itself represents 22% of the committers, Oracle around 7%. They represent the two top companies when it comes to active committers.

    This is clear that IBM and Oracle are driving this foundation, like it or not. The day IBM decide to cut the bills, Eclipse will be in dire straits.

    Anyway, one thing is to follow Java, another is to do it blindly. Oracle is probably shepperding Java followers to the cliff, you don’t have to jump…

    As a last note, yes, we disagree, nevertheless I understand your position. I just say that it’s necessarily biased.


    November 8, 2010 at 5:26 pm

  8. Emmanuel,

    You have no idea how the Eclipse Foundation runs, how decisions are made, or the dynamics of what happens at the Board. You have never been part of the Eclipse community or its projects. You know *nothing* of us. If you think IBM or Oracle are telling me what to do, you’ve clearly never met me, and you clearly don’t understand how a member-driven, vendor-neutral organization is managed. (Hint: SAP, Nokia, Actuate and CA Technologies and many others are also on the Board and their opinions count just as much.)

    I have nothing but respect for the Apache Software Foundation and its community. We may disagree on certain things, but you will never hear me criticizing the organization, its community or its decision making processes. You should consider paying Eclipse the same courtesy.

    Mike Milinkovich

    November 8, 2010 at 6:07 pm

  9. Mike,

    first, this is again *my own* opinion, I don’t know why you drag The ASF into this discussion. I do *not* represent The ASF, as I stated in my first post. That being stated again,

    I just can analyze what I see. This makes eclipse an opaque community if decisions are made behind a curtain, and if an outsider can’t understand how those decisions are made.

    We have met, and you clearly stated that IBM *is* driving Eclipse in many ways. Just because it pays a large part of the bills. That does not mean you are a pawn, you are of course perfectly able of speaking your own mind, and I know you do. But in your initial post, you weren’t talking as Mike Milinkovich, you explained the decision of The Eclipse Foundation.

    I do respect the people working on Eclipse projects, and the brilliant projects they deliver, as I’m using some of them every single day since 2000. But this has nothing to do with the fact that, even if I may be totally off base, I still believe the decision The Eclipse Foundation has made to support Java 7 as is a completely wrong one, and is a decision driven by IBM and Oracle. Claiming this does not sound to me a lack of courtesy. It’s a strong opinion, nothing more.

    Future will tell if I’m right or wrong, I wish I’m wrong, I’m scared I’m not.


    November 8, 2010 at 9:09 pm

  10. Emmanuel,

    I respect your opinion. All I can say is that I am acting in good faith with what I believe are the best interests of the entire Eclipse community at heart. You are absolutely right that I could be terribly wrong. Only time will tell.

    Mike Milinkovich

    November 8, 2010 at 10:30 pm

  11. Mike,

    having met you, I 100% believe you when you say that you are acting in good faith.

    And about being right or wrong, as Churchill said, “it’s not because we disagree that I’m right” (well, he used ‘you’ instead of ‘I’, but I guess it works both ways 😉


    November 9, 2010 at 3:40 am

  12. Mike,

    I have to disagree with the subtext of “If Java does not start to progress as a platform, it will die.”

    As a Java user I can say that for me the greatest progress has come from the open source community and not the JCP driven standards. There is no argument that the features announced for Java 7 are nice to have, but they matter very little in comparison to the open source innovations that have been brought by the open minded Java community. Take that away and it will be hard for me to see any benefit Java has over .NET.

    Protecting the open nature of the Java ecosystem is far more important than anything that Java 7 or 8 will bring.


    November 18, 2010 at 4:22 am

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