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Java Community Process Reacts to Release Cycle Announcement

| by Ben Evans Follow 10 Followers on Sep 13, 2017. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |

InfoQ recently reported on Oracle's announcement of a new release model and schedule for Java. The announcement has been broadly welcomed by most participants in the Java ecosystem, but questions remain about the Java standardisation process and the role of the Java Community Process (JCP) for future releases.

Beyond the release of Java 9, Oracle's position on how the proposed new release cadence will interact with the JCP is not yet clear. The JCP has typically operated over a longer timescale than the 6-month cycle proposed by Oracle for feature releases.This raises the question of whether there will be JSRs for each feature release.

If this is the intent, then Oracle needs to explain how the short timeframes between feature releases will be integrated with the JCP process. To date, very few JSRs have operated on timescales that short, and none of them have been platform JSRs (which define a new version of Java SE or EE).

An Oracle spokesman said:

Oracle has been working with the JCP on requirements to support an increased release cadence. There appears to be overall support for the plan and details will be worked out over the coming weeks.

Simon Ritter, JCP Executive Committee member for Azul Systems remarked:

It is true that in the past JSRs have operated over a longer period than six months, primarily because the platform was developing more slowly, so there was no need to move at that rapid pace.

In theory, there is no problem with completing the Java SE JSR in that time-frame, although there probably will be some changes to the JCP processes moving forwards.

Ritter also commented on Oracle's claim that the faster release cycle is necessary to compete with other programming platforms:

The problem that has always faced those tasked with evolving the platform is how to satisfy two orthogonal groups of users. Java powers many enterprise, mission-critical systems; stability and compatibility are the most important factors for those deploying and maintaining these systems.

However, in a world where the development of new applications is continually accelerating, developers want access to new language and API features at a much faster pace.  

Oracle's decision to move to a six-month feature release cycle with three-year long term support releases seems to be the best of both worlds.

The minutes for the most recent JCP EC meeting report that Oracle plans to file the Java SE 10 JSR (which may now be known as Java 18.3) as soon as practical, ideally in September with a December freeze date for the release. This suggests a willingness to engage with the JCP process for the moment.

However, there are some known problems with the alignment of the JCP process to SE releases. In particular, the current process has problems related to the production of beta builds by third parties that target a not-yet-released or evolving  version of the Java spec.

Oracle has confirmed that these challenges will form part of the ongoing discussions with the JCP and referred to the JCP OpenJDK Working Group and participation by relevant parties.

Martijn Verburg, leader of the London Java Community (LJC) and holder of LJC's seat on the JCP EC made this comment:

The JCP Executive Committee, Oracle and the OpenJDK governing body are working hard at streamlining the standardisation process in order to facilitate more rapid releases.

In a post on his blog, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, also a member of the JCP EC, remarked that:

Java will finally be freed of the explicit and implicit field of use restrictions which have dogged it since its invention. Developers will be free to use Java on any device, without requiring any additional licensing or other permission.

With just over a week to go until the much-delayed release of Java 9, the industry will be watching with interest to see whether the proposed new release cycle lives up to expectations once it is fully implemented.

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