January 23, 2011
Java’s future will be constrained by the bounds of Oracle's business model.
Drama has been running high since Oracle began to shape up the Java technology it acquired along with Sun Microsystems. Oracle ended the impasse over a new core Java release, set out a road map for the next two years, and began reorganizing Java's ineffectual governance. Oracle's Java road map and commitment to invest reassured enterprise customers and prevented a split with IBM but alienated many in the open source community. But Oracle's plans so far fail to address Java platforms' inherent complexity, which remains Java's Achilles' heel in head-to-head competition with Microsoft's.NET platform. Moreover, a controlled, top-down innovation model will limit Java's role as the basis for the "cloud" generation of platforms, rich Internet applications, and new development techniques ranging from languages such as Ruby to approaches such as business process management (BPM) and business rules. Conclusion: Java's future in the enterprise is alive and well but limited.
Oracle’s strategy for Java will change the Java ecosystem that has existed for 11 years.
- Oracle will direct Java innovation. Oracle has made it clear that from this point forward, it will direct all innovation in core Java (Java SE). Oracle will happily accept the contributions of others through OpenJDK as long as those contributions align with Oracle's priorities.
- OpenJDK is not fully open. OpenJDK is covered by a General Public License (GPL), and though it's certainly true that there are alternative JVM implementations and derivatives out there, OpenJDK is not open in spirit: It's practically impossible to distribute an alternative implementation without Oracle's sanction — specifically without a grant of the Java TCK. Losing The Apache Software Foundation as a supporter also hurts Oracle's credibility as a partner with the Java alpha geeks who drive so much independent and discontinuous Java innovation. Those developers will take their energy elsewhere, probably to Apache projects.
- The JCP is dying. The Java Community Process remains in place, but we believe that Oracle will formulate an alternative that ends the fiction of JCP as an open process and streamlines the process of Java platform evolution. The result will be total domination of Java's evolution by Oracle and IBM.
- Competition will shift to frameworks. With Oracle directing innovation at Java's core, others in the Java ecosystem will focus on higher-level frameworks. This shift began years ago, but we now expect it to intensify. We expect most of the work on frameworks to focus on the enterprise, as that is clearly Oracle and its core partners' focus with Java.
These ecosystem changes will have minimal immediate impact on customers. Java SE 7 and 8 will move forward, driven by the strong consensus among Oracle's partners about the content of those releases. Customers will see predictable and stable enhancements of enterprise Java middleware. But Oracle and its close Java partners are in a classic "innovator's dilemma." It may take a decade, but the bottom-up innovation the open source community drives will find expression elsewhere, and smaller companies that Java's high-end capabilities do not serve well will gravitate toward a new "good enough" open platform — likely based on a combination of LAMP and HTML 5 open standards.
Jeffrey Hammond and I collaborated on this research. See the full report at this link.