In the two months since Oracle absorbed Java pioneer Sun Microsystems, Java developers are not losing sleep over how Oracle has been handling the Java technology franchise, although they have some concerns. The recent resignation of Java creator James Gosling, and his comment that "just about anything I could say that would be accurate and honest would do more harm than good", resurfaced those fears.
Still, by and large, Java developers spoken to are content with Oracle's stewardship thus far.
- "They are keeping things moving in the right direction" and listening to the Java community, says Blaise Lapinski, a senior solutions architect at call centre technologist Convergys.
- "I don't have concerns" about Oracle taking over Java, says Ryan Winger, a software engineer at United Services Automobile Association. "I think Java will still thrive."
- "I have not noticed a difference" since Oracle took over, says Tim Morrow, a senior architect at comparison shopping site Shopzilla. "We're actually a pretty big Oracle shop, and we're kind of bought into them," he notes.
- "I don't worry about what Oracle's going to do with [Java]," says Zahir Masud, a senior developer for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. There are so many developers leveraging Java, it would be to Oracle's disadvantage to consider closing the platform at this point, he adds.
What concerns developers about Oracle's Java stewardship
Some developers confide that they have or have had reservations.
"Oracle has been a good contributor to the Java community for a while, so I am hoping [Oracle's Sun takeover] is not really that impactful – but it still remains to be seen," says Frank Maritato, director of infrastructure services and a Java developer at AT&T Interactive.
"When I first heard [of the merger], I was very concerned," says Elliott Baron, an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. "I use OpenJDK [Java Development Kit] on my machine, so it would have very big implications if they were to shut down OpenJDK and we were just stuck with proprietary Java," Baron says. Oracle, however, has given no indication of doing anything like this, he notes.
"From all the news that I've read, Oracle has been very good with [Java and Sun technologies] so far," Baron says. Still, doubts linger. Oracle's actions thus far are "alleviating some of my concerns but it is still sort of in the back of my mind," he notes. One area he's watching is Oracle plans to merge the JRockit and HotSpot Java Virtual Machines, with the question of how that will turn out.
Another developer cited the uncertainty that has arisen from the acquisition. "It is mostly concern because it is uncertainty," says Noel Kutuyev, a senior architect and Java developer for Innovis, which provides business-to-business services. Kutuyev says he has not seen any issues arise with Oracle's stewardship of Java technologies since the merger closed, but fears the company could limit options eventually.
Oracle's ownership of Java technologies thus far simply has meant a rebranding on Java technology websites, says Jeremy Deane, a principal at Collaborative Consulting, indicating a continuation of that technology largely as is. However, Deane says the Java language itself is perhaps not the wave of the future, now that other languages, such as JRuby, run on the Java virtual machine.
Gosling's departure raises questions but not surprise
"Gosling's departure will not have any immediate effect on Java, which by now is well established and has very strong developer support," says William Martinez Pomares, R&D manger and architect for Avantica Technologies, which offers outsourced product development services.
"Longer term, we might want to make the point that Oracle has to keep Java relevant and to keep innovating on the technology road map, which now will be more difficult for Oracle without Gosling. Also in that regard, the Java community is losing a brilliant technologist," Pomares says.
"I think it is fair to say that the transition from Sun to Oracle is an event of greater overall significance than James' departure from Oracle, but who knows how this changes things behind the scenes at Redwood Shores?” says Rick Ross, founder of the Javalobby Web community. "Additionally, we have no idea where he will surface and whether or not it will have anything to do with Java."
"This turn is not at all that surprising," says Convergys' Lapinski. "Gosling may be the father of Java, but Java is growing up beyond his guidance. I think he knows this. This is going to be an interesting time for open source software. It will be up to Oracle to determine if Java continues to be fully open source. One future we may see is that Java will have gone completely corporate within five years and Gosling, along with the open source community, will have replaced it with something completely new and innovative."
IDC sees Java key to Oracle's own interests
A recent report from IDC emphasises Oracle has "forged its entire software strategy around the Java platform. ... What is at stake with the Oracle and ownership and control over Java is not whether Java will be invested in or evolved, which is a certainty", the report states.
"The question," the report continues, "is whether Java can be evolved in a way that broadens its appeal and keeps it competitive and compelling against the steady onslaught of new languages, platform technologies and programming metaphors against Microsoft, owner of the .Net franchise, with its attendant tooling and rich ecosystem.
"The overriding impression from Oracle relating to Java technologies is that Oracle values good relations with the Java community and views the broad Java ecosystem as a key asset in its acquisition of Sun," the IDC report says. That community is significant: Java keeps close to eight million developers busy worldwide, IDC notes.
Fears about MySQL's fate persist
Some developers still wonder what will be the fate of the open source MySQL database now listed on the same product roster as the commercial Oracle database. "What is going to happen with MySQL? You know, Oracle has its own database," says Pomares. Oracle has expressed an intent to continue developing MySQL. Pomares also is concerned about Oracle's support of development frameworks.
"My concerns are around what is going to happen to MySQL more so than Java," notes Collaborative Consulting's Deane. He is fearful that Oracle might discontinue support for it. "It is hard to sell two products that do the same thing," Deane adds.