Total Eclipse team's new start: New Adoptium working group will promote free open source Java runtimes

AdoptOpenJDK is moving to Eclipse Foundation, but it is a slow process


The Eclipse Foundation has introduced a new Adoptium working group whose goal is to promote free, open source Java runtimes, with initial members including Alibaba Cloud, Huawei, IBM, Microsoft, New Relic, and Red Hat.

Adoptium is an Eclipse project whose purpose is “to produce high-quality runtimes and associated technology within the Java ecosystem.” It is closely associated with AdoptOpenJDK, a website set up in 2017 to provide binaries and a build service for runtimes built with the OpenJDK source code.

OpenJDK is the Oracle-maintained source for Java; Oracle also provides free binaries for OpenJDK but these are not kept patched beyond the very latest release – as well as the non-free OracleJDK, which requires a commercial license. Both AdoptOpenJDK and OpenJDK use the same source code; there is no fork.

The new working group has a charter which includes marketing the project as well as managing the technology roadmap and “business strategies,” the idea being that it will be commercially sustainable.

Another aspect of the working group, which costs companies up to $50,000 per year (though small organizations and user groups can participate for free) is to raise funds to pay for the infrastructure. “Running the TCKs [Technology Compatibility Kits], which we license from Oracle, requires some significant compute resources,” Eclipse executive director Mike Milinkovich told The Register.

AdoptOpenJDK, even nine months on from the announcement, has not yet completed the move to Eclipse

A complication is that this has to be done “in a non open-source way” because the TCKs are confidential. “So we have to build an access control infrastructure,” he said.

In June 2020 it was stated that AdoptOpenJDK would join the Eclipse Foundation. How is it going? “It’s still in process,” Milinkovich told us.

“We’re still on-boarding projects, there’s still technology work to do, there’s still standing up the infrastructure. This is another step, an important milestone.”

What this means is that AdoptOpenJDK, even nine months on from the announcement, has not yet completed the move to Eclipse.

Oracle, AdoptOpenJDK and Adoptium

Red Hat Distinguished Engineer Tim Ellison gave us a quick history. “2017 is when the AdoptOpenJDK project was initiated,” he told us. “It started with build scripts and tests to ensure that the AdoptOpenJDK code could be built into a reliable open source Java binary."

A vehicle for funding and hosting the project was needed, and "the London Java Community became the legal entity behind the project,” he said.

That worked well for a few years but “we’ve now reached the point where it’s a bit big for the Java London Community and very large corporations have some serious dependencies upon this project. Eclipse was the right place to move the project to.”

Code, infrastructure, governance all needs to be transferred, said Ellison, but it seems a slow process. When will it be complete? “We are doing it piecemeal. We have already transferred things like domain names, logins to the cloud infrastructure,” he said. Nevertheless, the next big JDK release, expected on 20th April, will use the old AdoptOpenJDK infrastructure though the source materials will be hosted at Eclipse. Ellison expects the release after that, in July, will be fully Eclipse.

We wouldn’t be here without having negotiated an arrangement with Oracle for access to the TCKs … they are ultimately the steward of Java

What is the relationship with Oracle? “They provide their own distributions of Java, they don’t need Adoptium,” said Milinkovich. “But we wouldn’t be here without having negotiated an arrangement with Oracle for access to the TCKs… they are ultimately the steward of Java.”

This means that Oracle will not be part of the new working group. What about VMware, deeply involved in Java via Pivotal and the popular Spring framework? “Last time I spoke to Pivotal they were actually using AdoptOpenJDK as part of their cloud containers,” said Ellison.

“So as a user they are involved… there are a lot of companies who are dependent on this project who are not at the moment participating as founding members in the working group.” Recruitment will continue, said Milinkovich.

Overall, the project is significant for the Java community because it provides freely available Java runtimes – as well as a route to non-Oracle commercial support where needed – combined with reassurance that these builds are tested for conformance with the official specification.

“We’re trying to make Adoptium a safe choice for enterprises,” said Milinkovich. Not exciting, but that is how enterprises like it. ®

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