Exclusive Oracle has told The Register it is "committed" to Java amid growing fears the IT giant had all but given up on Java EE – aka Java Platform, Enterprise Edition.
The Redwood City titan said it will present fresh plans for the future of Java EE 8 at its JavaOne conference in San Francisco in September.
Version eight is due to be released in the first half of 2017. However, over the past six months, it appeared Oracle had pretty much ceased development of the enterprise edition – a crucial component in hundreds of thousands of business applications – and instead quietly focused its engineers on other products and projects.
Oracle spokesman Mike Moeller tonight sought to allay those fears, and said a plan for the future of Java EE is brewing.
"Oracle is committed to Java and has a very well defined proposal for the next version of the Java EE specification – Java EE 8 – that will support developers as they seek to build new applications that are designed using micro-services on large-scale distributed computing and container-based environments on the Cloud," said Moeller.
"Oracle is working closely with key partners in the Java community to finalize the proposal and will share the full details with the broader Java community at JavaOne in September."
Java EE provides an API and runtime for enterprise-grade applications, and is developed via the Java Community Program: it is essentially an open specification driven by various organizations and implemented by Oracle and other Java EE vendors, such as IBM and Red Hat.
The Register understands that roughly a year ago, a movement started within Oracle to mothball its Java EE efforts and create a new proprietary enterprise-friendly Java runtime and API in its place – which Oracle would have total exclusive control over and wouldn't have to share with IBM, Red Hat and so on. While this new interface would use some parts of Java EE, it would be approximately 80 to 90 per cent proprietary.
As the group driving the proprietary project gained more clout internally, resources were diverted away from the development of Java EE, we're told.
This unannounced change of heart by Oracle was noticed by the Java EE community, which was alarmed by a decision to push back the release of Java EE 8 to 2017, and a drop-off in source code committed by Oracle to its own Java EE implementations.
The number of code commits and issues resolved by Oracle for its own JavaServer Faces implementation (Source: Java EE Guardians)
A campaign group called the Java EE Guardians was founded to put pressure on Oracle to commit to its Java EE 8 promises; its members include father-of-Java James Gosling and folks on the executive committee of the Java Community Process, which steers the development of Java EE.
"There is growing evidence that Oracle is conspicuously neglecting Java EE, weakening a very broad ecosystem that depends on strong Java EE development," the group said on its change.org petition, calling on Oracle supremo Larry Ellison to get behind the enterprise edition.
"Almost all work from Oracle on Java EE has ceased for more than six months with no end to the inactivity in sight. Unless things change soon Java EE 8 won’t be delivered in anywhere near the time when it was initially promised if it is delivered at all."
Very recently, however, amid intense pressure from the community, IBM and Red Hat, The Register understands Oracle executives realized that the proprietary API route would be a disaster: it would cause too much damage to the ecosystem, and there was no guarantee people would use the new closed-source API.
So now it's back to the original plan for Java EE 8: it is likely Oracle will stick to its H1 2017 timetable for publishing version eight but limit the scope of its new features in order to complete the work on time.
An early draft of the new specification emerged on time in the final quarter of 2015, but a version for public review – due to land in Q1 2016 – did not arrive. However, there's still time for a proposed final draft to be published on time in Q3 2016 to coincide with the JavaOne conference.
"This is really great news and a pleasant surprise," Reza Rahman, an ex-Oracle staffer, Java expert and spokesman for the Java EE Guardians, told The Register.
"We're really happy that Oracle is now listening to the community and is working towards finding a solution. We hope that going forward after this Oracle treats Java EE as a standard and not merely as a product." ®