The Trouble with the JCP EC

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Friday, December 10. 2010

Just a reminder: The below reflects my opinions and my point of view, personally, as myself. It is a shame that some parties have described the FOU TCK issue as a battle between Oracle and Apache. It is actually between Oracle and the non-aligned Java community, as represented by the ASF. So when people say that the ASF "loses Java showdown", it isn't the ASF which "lost" (although standing up for principles and the letter of law is never losing), but instead it's the Java community as well as the FOSS community as well. Recall that at the core of the issue is that Apache simply wanted Oracle to abide by the JSPA and allow access to the TCK without the resulting certified released being encumbered by any FOU restrictions. It is the restrictions on the release which makes it incompatible with not only the Apache License but any open source license. The acronym JCP stands for the Java Community Process, and it was supposed to be the way in which the entire Java ecosystem would be involved in the development and future of Java. The key word in there is "Community." It wasn't supposed to be a corporate controlled group, carving out areas of Java for their own revenue producing purposes, but, as we will see, that is exactly what is has become. With the ASF leaving, there is no longer any entity within the EC which is fully and completely beholden to what is good for the community at large. That is a serious claim to make, but I think I can back it up. First of all, let's look at the votes and, just as important, the comments with those votes. The breakdown is
  • Those that voted NO
  • Those that voted YES, but with comments expressing their disappointment with the FOU restrictions
  • Those that voted YES and provided no comments at all
Lets look at the 2nd group first (group #1 needs no explanation, I hope). But before we do that, just remember one thing. At an EC face-to-face meeting, Oracle made it perfectly clear that no matter what the outcome of the vote, they were going to move ahead with Java7 and Java8. So no matter what, no matter what people voted, Java7 and 8 would not be "held back". Ok now, so almost without fail, the vendors in group #2 derive a significant part of their revenue on Java. Their bottom line depends on it and, for the most part, they have shareholders to worry about. They have a fiduciary duty to make money. Now I have no doubt that Oracle used everything within their power to "convince" them to vote YES. As mentioned, since these companies depend on Java, and since the sole-source of Java is Oracle, Oracle was able to provide incentives to EC members to see things Oracle's way, in the form of significantly reduced license fees for Java, for example, promises of more control and direction within Java (which in and of itself clearly indicates that Java as a community-involved process is a sham, but I digress), and the like. At a point, these become simply too large to ignore and too significant to the bottom line to disregard. At the same time, these entities know that if they vote NO, that they will be portrayed, by all the marketing muscle that Oracle can bring to bear, as "stopping Java" or "holding Java back" or some such FUD, even though, as we saw above, Oracle was going ahead with Java no matter what. All you have to do is look at how Oracle has responded to the ASF leaving as clear indication. It's all about "moving Java forward" with the implication that if you don't agree with Oracle, you are "hurting" Java, whereas Oracle, of course, is doing all it can to protect it. Again, companies which derive revenue from Java cannot afford to be painted as "anti-Java", especially when a direct competitor can portray itself as the savior of Java. And so once again, there is no real option for them. As public companies, their hands are tied. (BTW: with all this in mind, how in the world the Sun acquisition got through the EU and US anti-trust laws is mind-boggling). They simply cannot afford to vote NO. And so the YES votes are disappointing, yes, but not unexpected. And despite any indications to the contrary, I do applaud those who took the only real avenue available to them and expressed their unhappiness with Oracle and the FOU restrictions in their comments. I personally feel that they wanted to vote NO, wish they could vote NO, but simply can't. Now regarding group #3 I have very little to say except that I am quite surprised and disappointed that one entity in particular didn't even comment on the FOU restriction. This entity is purportedly pro-Open Source and pro-community and even is directly involved in a large open-source but not open-community "seasonal" (ahem) codebase (the representative was the original coder), and yet they didn't even bother to express any support for Apache or the community at all. So whether their "we love open source" characterization is real or feigned (for pure commercial value) is, I guess, up for grabs. Maybe they had a good reason to be silent; I don't know. So the impact of the ASF (and Tim and Doug as well) leaving the EC is more than just some disgruntled people not "getting their way" and leaving. It is, in fact, verification that there is no real balance, no real community power within the JCP. Oracle holds all the cards and can gain the system to do whatever it wants, even ignoring contractual agreements. Other EC members can fight, but they will only be allowed what Oracle lets them do. And they will have to simply sit down and take it. The JCP is no longer about "community" in the sense of "the Java community". It no longer can serve as a process to drive Java towards what is best for all, because one single entity can overrule anything. If what "the community" wants to do aligns with Oracle's business, then Oracle will allow it to happen. If not, then it will be stopped dead in its tracks. Sure, maybe I could be wrong. Maybe Oracle will actually let the community drive Java, be a true, actual part of the process. Maybe one day Oracle will see the open source community as an entity to be nurtured and helped, rather than a resource to be plundered. Maybe one day all that will happen, and I'll have to eat crow. And when it does, I'll do so happily. Hell, I'll even have seconds. But I sincerely doubt if there will ever come a day when I'm picking black feathers out of my teeth...

The JCP Is Dead

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Thursday, December 9. 2010 in ASF

... and Oracle killed it. By this time, most people know that the ASF has resigned from the JCP EC. What was posted was our final version of the notice, but I'd also like to share with the community an earlier, rougher and more "emotional" version. It says the same, but in a more face-to-face conversational way. I feel that both versions represent the disappointment, anger and sadness over this whole issue, which has been fostering since 2006. The below just captures it from a different point of view:
The Apache Software Foundation is resigning from the Java Community Process (JCP) Executive Committee (EC). On December 7, 2010, by a vote of 12 YES and 3 NO votes, the EC approved the Java 7 and Java 8 JSRs and TCKs under license terms which are fundamentally incompatible with open source. The results of the Java7/8 JSR votes from yesterday mean that the EC has just approved a major fundamental JCP specification which, along with its TCK license, makes distribution of a tested, compatible implementation impossible under *any* open source license by anyone other than Oracle. The EC, by voting in favor of the Java 7/8 JSRs, have given Oracle, who openly ignored the letter of the law as well as the repeatedly stated intent of the community, tacit approval to willfully ignore its contractual obligations, despite any "protests" within their "YES" vote comments. This approval was at the direct expense of a fellow EC member as well as the Java community at large. Yesterday's vote is the final straw in an issue which has been ongoing since August 2006 and as described in our Open Letter dated April 10, 2007. The withholding of an acceptable, FOU-free TCK by Sun, and now Oracle, is against both the spirit and the letter of the JSPA. What is not new is that Oracle continues to violate and not honor the JSPA agreements, which are a foundation of the JCP. What *is* new is that the EC, by fact of their vote, has allowed them to do it. It is obvious that the JCP is not a standards forum, nor a community process at all, but rather a cabal to control the Java ecosystem. The ASF can no longer justify its continued involvement within this entity. As such, the ASF is removing all official representatives from any and all JSRs. In addition, we will refuse any renewal of our JCP membership and, of course, our EC position. The ASF is saddened to have to make this move, but we feel that the JCP is completely broken and makes a mockery of the term "community," a concept which has great value to Apache.
Of course, we had hoped that our previous blog post would have spun up more support, but being the pragmatists that we are, we also knew that the other EC members were being seriously pressured by Oracle to vote YES, and so we held out little hope. We also hoped for a better response from Oracle, but what we got was basically self-serving lip-service with what is most likely the funniest and yet most inaccurate line yet in the whole ordeal:
"Oracle provides TCK licenses under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms consistent with its obligations under the JSPA."
If that little nugget doesn't show that Accuracy and Oracle don't mix, I don't know what will. The JSPA says, in 5.C.III, that a spec lead can't:
"impose any contractual condition or covenant that would limit or restrict the right of any licensee to create or distribute such Independent Implementations"
and, of course, the FOU restriction does exactly that. And as far as "non-discriminatory", well, Oracle has deemed that OpenJDK (*their* distribution) not have any FOU restrictions on the TCK, but that the ASF's (Harmony) will. And that isn't discrimination? And so, the JCP is dead... All that remains is a zombie, walking the streets of the Java ecosystem, looking for brains... But maybe, from this death, a new, true community process might arise somewhere, with a different collection of people, one with no entity "more equal than others". That is something I think the ASF would be quite interested in seeing.

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