Forrester: Oracle confining Java future to enterprise use

Oracle's plans for Java seem to constrain the language to the enterprise, analysts assert

Oracle is limiting the development of Java by focusing the future development of the language on enterprise use, to the detriment of a wider, more diverse Java community, charged a pair of analysts at Forrester Research.

"Sun had a very broad focus for Java, including enterprise middleware but also PCs, mobile devices, and embedded systems. Oracle's focus will be on enterprise middleware first and foremost, because that's where the money is," concluded the report, authored by Forrester analysts Jeffrey Hammond and John Rymer.

As a result, Java may lose some of its prominence among the general worldwide development community, as it becomes more regarded as a specialized server-side language for Oracle and IBM enterprise customers, the duo warn.

Since Oracle announced the purchase of Sun Microsystems, completed a year ago, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has frequently praised Sun's Java programming language as one of the most valuable assets that came with the acquisition.

But that high regard may not extend to Java as a general-purpose programming language. Certainly some of Oracle's movements since the purchase point to a more restricted use.

Although most of the Java specification is open source, Oracle maintains tight control over open-source variants through its ownership of the Java trademark, the analysts contend. It also maintains a strong hand over the JCP (Java Community Process), the independent body overseeing Java development.

In December, the Apache Software Foundation withdrew its participation in the JCP in protest of some of Oracle's licensing decisions surrounding Java. Oracle subsequently asked ASF to reconsider its departure, though to no avail.

"Losing The Apache Software Foundation as a supporter ... hurts Oracle's credibility as a partner with the Java alpha geeks who drive so much independent and discontinuous Java innovation," the analysts wrote in a blog post announcing the report.

In lieu of ASF support, Oracle seems to be courting IBM instead, throwing its weight behind the IBM-backed OpenJDK open-source Java implementation. In a related report also just released, Rymer praised IBM's WebSphere 7 as the most robust heavyweight Java application server.

Another factor the analysts pointed out is that Oracle is also not addressing one of Java's current weaknesses, namely its complexity. This complexity may be driving developers to more readily consider other alternatives for internal or cloud use, such as Microsoft's .NET platform or Ruby on Rails. This complexity is also spurring the development of external frameworks, such as Spring, which further diverts outside developer attention away from core Java work.

To formulate the report, the Forrester analysts interviewed 12 organizations directly involved with Java, including Oracle, IBM, Red Hat, Microsoft and the ASF. They also surveyed the thoughts of Java users through the comment section of Forrester's blog site, and by person at events such as JavaOne.

Oracle declined to comment on the report.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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