Oracle has some major allies on its side, most notably IBM and Red Hat, as it furthers Java development.
Oracle and IBM, for example, have been collaborating in the OpenJDK project, the open-source implementation of the Java SE specification, Java language, Java Development Kit and Java SE Runtime Environment. The OpenJDK is a major factor in adoption of Java SE throughout the open source community. JDK 7 became generally available on July 28 and it's expected to be a major topic of conversation at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco next month.
IBM's decision in October 2010 to back the Oracle-run OpenJDK over the Apache Software Foundation's Project Harmony was seen as a major gain for Oracle. The move committed IBM's development work on JVMs to the OpenJDK and to the roadmap for Java SE 7 and Java SE 8.
Red Hat is another major Oracle ally. Red Hat is a big supporter of Java EE, the standard for developing multitier applications. Java EE is the foundation of Red Hat's JBoss application server (and is a key component of Oracle's WebLogic and IBM's WebSphere application servers as well). And in August Red Hat debuted its OpenShift Platform-as-a-Service software that's based on Java EE 6.
Red Hat also has contributed to Java EE 7, the next generation of the Java EE platform that's expected to make it easier for Java EE-based software to run in private and public cloud systems. Java EE 7 also will support the HTML5 standard for developing Web content, and offer new and extended APIs to improve developer performance. The Java EE 7 specification, now moving through the Java Community Process, is expected to be complete sometime in 2012.
Oracle is even proposing changes to the Java Community Process itself, which is made up of 1,200 individuals, businesses and user groups. The changes, known as JCP.next, will help broaden transparency of Java technology development, improve procedures, increase agility and encourage new community participation, said Patrick Curran, JCP chairman, in an Aug. 12 blog post called "Using the process to change the process."
Java faces increasing competition from Microsoft's .NET in the development platform race. "The question is whether Oracle will be able to keep Java competitive, particularly for large enterprise applications," the Forrester report said. While .NET has some advantages, such as developer productivity, Java wins in advanced features. And .NET runs only on Windows.
"Java SE 7 and 8 will move forward, driven by the strong consensus among Oracle's partners about the content of those releases," the Forrester report said. "Customers will see predictable and stable enhancements of enterprise Java middleware." But with Oracle setting Java's direction, "the bottom-up innovation the open source community drives will find expression elsewhere."
NWN's Comframe has been using .Net more for development projects in recent years as it's become a more viable platform, Riley said. But now he's seeing an uptick in demand for Java work from customers. "It's very much driven by the market and our clients specify the technologies they are comfortable with."
"There's still a pretty good demand for Java," he said. "It's alive and well and a huge percentage of the world is running its business on it."