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Bruno Souza on Eclipse Jakarta EE 9 and the Future of Java

One of the biggest events in the Java universe last year was the official release of the Eclipse Jakarta EE 9 Platform, Web Profile specifications, and related TCKs. It moved enterprise Java fully from the javax.* namespace to the jakarta.* namespace. That's about all it did, actually, but it was an extremely consequential change.

I talked with lots of people about the latest shift in the evolution of enterprise Java, and one of the guys I was most excited to connect with on this topic was Bruno Souza, founder and leader of the Brazil-based SouJava, the largest Java User Group (JUG) in the world. Souza was one of the initiators of the Apache Harmony project to create a non-proprietary Java virtual machine, he serves on the Executive Committee of the Java Community Process (JCP), and he's on the board of advisors at Java-based Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provider Jelastic.

"I was very excited about Jakarta EE, and we [at SouJava] were onboard from the very beginning," Souza told me. "I think it was a very courageous move for Oracle to get all this awesome and extremely valuable IP and donate it to the Eclipse Foundation.… [When] you have this big player that does everything, it's very hard for anyone to come in and help. Oracle was this big guy doing everything, and so, everyone was just kind of doing small things around design… The only way to get a Java EE [community] that was more open and participatory was for Oracle to reduce its participation. And they did it!"

Souza offered kudos to the Eclipse Foundation and its executive director, Mike Milinkovich, even though Oracle refused to give up the javax.* namespace, forcing the foundation to adopt jakarta.*, and he believes the change will be better for the enterprise Java community in the long run. Souza was also on the side of the slow move, he said, and not a supporter of the so-called Big Bang, the plan for a complete change-over from javax.* to  jakarta.*, which the foundation did employ.

"Mike was a superb negotiator in all this," he said, "I don't think people realize what a huge thing this was…. The Java trademark is very valuable and it impacts a lot of different things, so I do understand [Oracle's position]…. And I wasn't a fan of the Big Bang, but honestly, I got convinced, and when the decision was made, I got behind it. Instead of us having this process that's going to take years and years and years, let's do it once, 'ripping off the band aid,' so everyone can get mad this one time, and we move on from there."

The release of Jakarta EE 9 might not seem like a big deal, Souza said, because it was primarily a shift of name spaces with very little in the way of upgrades. But now that that herculean task is complete, the community has the ability to innovate free of potential constraints from a dominant commercial player.

"My expectation is that now people will feel that this change was slow," he said, "but if you look at the long history of Java EE, it's relatively fast, and the process is going to get a lot faster…. And I think people want an ecosystem they can trust."

I asked Souza about what seems to be the background role played by the JCP in this exceedingly consequential change in the Java world.

"The JCP is the standards organization, and the truth is, innovation does not happen within the JCP," he said. "Innovation has always happened outside the JCP, in the field, where you can experiment, go as fast as you want, and break things. The standards process is not the place to innovate. But I will say that the JCP was very clear and very much at peace with that idea. And the elephant in the room is that the JCP is an Oracle entity. It's very open, and we've made it even more open in the last few years. And at the same time I think that there's always a barrier to how open you can be when you're inside a company. With Jakarta EE, we broke from this barrier and now we have an independent organization, which Oracle and IBM and others are part of, that can run a standards process. So, I don't see the JCP as reducing in size, but Java as growing."

You can hear the rest of my conversation with Bruno Souza, in which he reflects on the future of Java, on The WatersWorks Podcast. It's available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and most other providers.

Posted by John K. Waters on January 7, 2021