Apache foundation threatens to quit Java steering group

The Apache Software Foundation could abandon the Java Community Process over Oracle's refusal to let it certify Apache Harmony, the group has warned

The Apache Software Foundation has threatened to pull out of the Java Community Process because Oracle, which controls the Java group, will not allow the certification of the Apache Harmony project.

The Apache Software Foundation's (ASF) complaint about Java certification goes back three years, to when the organisation sent an open letter to Sun, then the technology's main sponsor. As the ASF said at the time, its membership of the Java Community Process Executive Committee (JCP EC) was supposed to allow the ASF to demonstrate the compatibility of Apache Harmony, its own open implementation of Java. However, Sun and now Oracle, which bought Sun earlier this year, have refused to allow certification on terms acceptable to the ASF.

"The ASF will terminate its relationship with the JCP if our rights as implementers of Java specifications are not upheld by the JCP Executive Committee to the limits of the EC's ability," the ASF Board said in a statement on Tuesday. The ASF's move is a protest at what it sees as Oracle's favouring of its own open Java implementation, OpenJDK, at the expense of rival implementations such as Apache Harmony.

"Oracle is violating their contractual obligation as set forth under the rules of the JCP by only offering a TCK [technology compatibility kit] licence that imposes additional terms and conditions that are not compatible with open source or free software licences," said the ASF Board. The Java TCK is the only part of Java that Sun refused to open-source.

The board continued: "In light of Oracle Corporation failing to uphold their responsibilities as a Specification Lead under the JSPA [Java Specification Participation Agreement] and breaking their signed covenants with the Apache Software Foundation that are the conditions under which we agreed to participate in the JCP, we call upon the Executive Committee of the JCP to continue its clear, strong and public support for Java as an open specification ecosystem that is a level playing field for participants in order to ensure that anyone — any individual or commercial, academic or non-profit entity — is able to implement and distribute Java specifications under terms of their choice."

The ASF Board specifically asked other members of the JCP EC to vote against the upcoming version 7 of Java, which Oracle is keenly promoting.

IBM dealt Apache Harmony a major blow in October, when it abandoned the project for OpenJDK. It cited Oracle's refusal to allow the certification of Apache Harmony — a stance with which it disagreed, but which nonetheless forced it to abandon the ASF's project. Within weeks, a key member of the JCP EC, Doug Lea, also left the JCP because Oracle "promises to simply disregard" its rules.

The battle between Oracle and the ASF is intertwined with that between Oracle and Google. Key parts of Google's Android mobile operating system are based on Apache Harmony, and it is Android's use of Java that led Oracle to sue Google for patent violation in August.


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