Apache has hit Oracle with an ultimatum: grant its independent implementation of Java a license or it will quit Java's governing body.
The Apache Software Foundation, father of the web's number-one server and a leader of popular open-source Java, will finish its relationship with the Java Community Process (JCP) if its rights to a license under the group's governing principles aren't upheld by Oracle.
The ultimatum is a significant hardening of the ASF's stance, and an escalation of its fight with Oracle, which actually started three years ago against Sun Microsystems, which controlled the JCP at the time.
Earlier this month, ASF president Jim Jagielski told The Reg it would consider whether it should remain a JCP member if other JCP-ers voted "yes" on Java 7 - the next version of Java under Oracle's planned roadmap outlined in September.
On Tuesday, the ASF urged fellow JCP members to vote against that Java 7 roadmap - unless Oracle lives up to its obligations and grants ASF's Project Harmony a license to use the Java Test Compatibility Kit (TCK).
Voting against Oracle's plans would send a "strong and public support for Java as an open specification ecosystem that is a level playing field for participants in order to ensure that anyone, any individual or commercial, academic or non-profit entity – is able to implement and distribute Java specifications under terms of their choice. Specifically, we encourage the other members of the JCP EC to continue with their support of our position regarding Oracle, and vote accordingly on the upcoming Java SE 7 vote," ASF said in a statement released during its annual ApacheCon here.
Geir Magnusson Jr, an ASF board member and JCP rep, told The Reg over email: "The only power the EC [executive committee] really has is its vote on JSRs, and Oracle shouldn't be allowed to create any new JSRs until it behaves in a way that complies with its obligations as the Java SE spec lead."
Oracle can meet its obligations very easily, Magnusson added, by providing Harmony with a Java SE TCK license that doesn't prevent the ASF from distributing Harmony under the Apache License and comes without any additional terms or constraints from Oracle.
Holding up Oracle's Java roadmap could be the only power the JCP has over Oracle. Larry Ellison's giant has largely ignored the JCP since buying Sun earlier this year, and has adopted a form of communicating and collaboration that largely involves Oracle taking a decision in private and then telling everybody else the way it's gonna be.
Oracle doesn't respond to threats, so there's a very good chance the ASF could find itself leaving the JCP minus the license for Harmony it's holding out for – especially since granting Harmony a Java license would mean an embarrassing U-turn for Oracle.
The ASF has been a JCP member since 2000, near the start of the JCP, and no one in the group has ever quit in protest.