IBM, Oracle, OpenJDK, and the implications

IBM's evolutionary vision for Java: Cloud, virtualization, expanding the programming model

Rod Smith, vice president of Emerging Technologies, IBM® Software Group, and Jason Gartner, IBM's director of Java™ Technologies talk about the news on the IBM and Oracle agreement to cooperate on OpenJDK.


Scott Laningham (, Podcast Editor, IBM developerWorks

Scott LaninghamScott Laningham, host of developerWorks podcasts, was previously editor of developerWorks newsletters. Prior to IBM, he was an award-winning reporter and director for news programming featured on Public Radio International, a freelance writer for the American Communications Foundation and CBS Radio, and a songwriter/musician.

15 October 2010

developerWorks: This is the developerWorks podcast, I'm Scott Laningham. My guests are Rod Smith, vice president of emerging technologies, IBM Software Group, and Jason Gartner, IBM's director of Java technologies. They're here to talk about this week's news on the IBM and Oracle agreement to cooperate on openjdk. Welcome to you both.

Gartner: Thank you very much. Thanks for joining us.

Smith: Thank you.

IBM's core commitment to Java technology

Listen to this podcast.

developerWorks: Rod, I wonder if you could start us off with explaining the essence of the agreement that was reached this week and why it happened.

Smith: Well, there's a couple of reasons it happened. One, Oracle approached us regarding our leadership and contributions to Java. We've been long-term leaders in the Java community. And as you've seen the transition from Sun to Oracle, there has been a lot of uncertainty. And you know, people wanted to see a direction, and they I think wanted to see strong leadership and stable leadership.

So we felt that for the growth of Java, for the community, for the development community as well, stepping forward with Oracle and joining the openjdk was the right thing to do.

Gartner: I'd completely agree with that, and I think you know, an additional aspect to that is our customers. IBM never takes its eye off the ball when it comes to putting customers first and removing any uncertainty in Java and IBM's strong commitment to Java is absolutely at the core of this.

And I think this is good news for our customers and for any customer out there who is ... who has products that are based on the Java or developing in Java today. So customer first, and I think that's a very important aspect to this agreement.

Smith: Yes, good point.

developerWorks: Now, what about developers? What does this mean for developers?

Smith: It means especially for people that use Java SE, I think they will see a couple of things happening. One is, as we really focus on this being a strategic place to work around Java SE, then more innovation, we hope, quicker, be able to move things along.

Second is, which might apply to the developers more than most people think, the idea of being able from especially many customers' standpoint including ours, submitting bug fixes directly and getting code back, streamlining our development, lowering our costs, lowering other people's costs, is a big ... you know, should be a big step for developers.

developerWorks: What about IBM's vision for Java, Rod, to the extent that it differs from Oracle's stated roadmap?

Smith: Well, I'll let Jason chime in here, too. I think that part of this is a first day statement, you know, how do we look going forward at how Java evolves? And for us in particular and I think for Oracle. We've seen a number of technology come along around XML and Web services and others that really expand the programming model.

And we think that's important, and that's something that I think Oracle will bring to the table in looking at it from how enterprises want to evolve and going to cloud and other places as well as us.

Gartner: Yes, I'd agree with that as well, Rod. I think, you know, focusing on innovation and revitalizing Java as the premier platform and run-time that's out there. Technologies such as virtualization and cloud are going to be a very big part in the future, and we are committed to have Java as a cornerstone to that market and that programming environment.

So, I don't necessarily believe that it differs from Oracle's stated roadmap, but you know, I think we want to be able to accelerate it. And I think that's why we are looking forward to this collaboration.

developerWorks: Jason, let me ask you about IBM JDK implementations. Will they be more based on openjdk? Will there be a reduction of interest or support in VMs? What about all that?

Gartner: Well, IBM's been a long-time licensee from originally Sun and now Oracle, and so our existing Java implementations are based on primarily openjdk as it exists today, because that was the source base which was put there. And so we will be focusing primarily on the cloud initially, and we have no intention of reducing any interest or support in JVM J9 or in others that are out there such as Habanero, because when we look at it we believe that competition in the Java space is very important even with the collaboration.

If you look at over the past five years, is that IBM Java performance has increased nearly 40 times faster than Moore's Law itself. And so, and that wouldn't happen if there wasn't some good healthy competition out there within the VM space.

developerWorks: Now, what about Apache? I mean, IBM continued support of Apache in general, and what will happen to Harmony on particular if we're not actively involved there?

Gartner: Well, so IBM's contribution to Harmony has primarily been to the class libraries. And there has been already some adoption of the Harmony libraries within openjdk. There have been very specific components that IBM's written that are frankly more performing and possibly better well written.

So we've decided that actually collaborating in a single open source project will actually help strengthen and accelerate the Java runtime, and we're going to continue to support work within the Harmony project. But you know, we are going to make openjdk our strategic and primary open source forum.

developerWorks: Do you see any impact on IBM products that incorporate Harmony at all by this?

Gartner: No, IBM's got a long and storied history with its ability to support products regardless of the technology that's in there, and that's not going to change. Products that are based on Harmony will not have any major shift in strategic directions or anything like that. And we do see this as a general evolution as we move the platforms forward and as we move our products forward.

And I think it continues to be a platform by platform and product by product decision. And you know, we will always continue to support our customers, and they should feel well protected with that.

developerWorks: Rob, let me come back to you and ask you, considering IBM's very public position on general public licensing, is that still relevant, or does it take a back seat to the possibility of a fork to Java? What are your thoughts there?

Smith: Well, as most people know, we support and participate in lots of open source projects, Apache being a major place that we work on. And in most of those projects there's different types of licensing, and JPL's one of them. So, we're accustomed to donating and contributing code and collaborating in communities with those types of licenses.

We're also a long-term Java licensee as Jason just mentioned, and so we don't see any problems in the work we're doing, and we don't see any forking of the code as any issue.

developerWorks: And maybe here near the end, any words about IBM participation in the Java community process, assuming that Oracle continues it?

Smith: Well, we fully expect Oracle to continue it, and I think that if you look historically at the JCP — and I was one of the people there in the beginning saying we needed some industry steering committee around it — it was pretty innovative. Companies did not share their technical leaders on collaborations like this, it just wasn't done.

So, but that was, you know, a long time ago, and there's a lot better models, a lot more acceptance of open source. Most of our customers use it and expect it and participate in communities. And so, you know, the JCP needs some looking after, modernization, streamlining, and being able to really help break some of the log jams that are there and helping folks contribute faster. Jason, what do you think?

Gartner: Yes, I fully agree. You know, Scott, I am actually the executive committee member for IBM SE and EE within the JCP. And yes, I can definitely, you know, use with some modernization and some streamlining it. But I think the community is ready for it, right? I believe that Oracle is committed to it, IBM is committed to it, and I think the community wants to see that. And I do believe that we will be able to modernize it a little bit, make it a little bit more effective.

And you know, frankly, IBM's been a long-time supporter of standardization. We believe it's important. And especially for something as important as a Java runtime. You know, developers want to know that when they are developing to a standard that they have a confidence that it truly is a standard and that it has been collaborated by the community.

So we believe in that, Oracle believes in that, and we're committed to making that work and to modernizing it, as Rod mentioned.

developerWorks: Well, I appreciate you both making time for this. I know this was on the thoughts of many folks this week, and I think you brought some clarity to it. So, thank you both.

Gartner: Thank you.

Smith: Thank you.

developerWorks: My guests have been Rod Smith, vice president of emerging technologies, IBM Software Group, and Jason Gartner, IBM's director of Java technologies. This has been the developerWorks podcast. I'm Scott Laningham. Talk to you next time.

Search terms for these topics: openjdk ibm | open jdk



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ArticleTitle=IBM, Oracle, OpenJDK, and the implications