Apache Quits Java Governing Board Over Dispute With Oracle

The Apache Software Foundation has quit its seat on a key Java standards governing board and in a statement roundly criticized Oracle for refusing to provide a technology compatibility kit for Apache's version of Java.

The ASF's sudden resignation, announced in a blog posted Thursday, raises more questions about Oracle and its commitment to the open-source community. Oracle acquired Java when it bought Sun Microsystems in January for $7.3 billion.

Oracle has asked the ASF to reconsider its decision. "We encourage Apache to reconsider its position and remain a part of the process to move Java forward," said Adam Messinger, Oracle vice president of development, in a statement.

The dispute centers on what the ASF said is Oracle's refusal to provide the ASF's Harmony open-source version of Java with a technology compatibility kit (TCK) license for upcoming releases of Java Standard Edition.

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Tuesday the Java Standard Edition/Executive Edition Executive Committee of the Java Community Process (JCP), the organization that develops standard technical specifications for Java technology, approved technology roadmaps for Java SE 7 and Java SE 8 (due in 2011 and late 2012, respectively). ASF and Google were among those on the executive committee who voted against approving the road maps.

Critics have accused Oracle of dominating the executive committee.

"The recent Java SE 7 vote was the last chance for the JCP EC to demonstrate that the EC has any intent to defend the JCP as an open specification process," the Apache Software Foundation blog said. Oracle's "refusal to provide the ASF's Harmony project with a TCK license for Java SE" will "severely restrict distribution of independent implementations" of the Java SE specifications and "prohibit the distribution of independent open-source implementations" of the specifications, the blog said.

"The Apache Software Foundation concludes that the JCP is not an open specification process – that Java specifications are proprietary technology that must be licensed directly from the spec lead [Oracle] under whatever terms the spec leader chooses," the blog said.

Next: Oracle Cites Need To "Move Java Forward"

The ASF's resignation from the board is effective immediately. The foundation has served on the Java SE/EE Executive Committee for 10 years.

Oracle's Messinger, in his statement, noted that Oracle recently re-nominated the ASF to the Java Executive Committee "because we valued their active participation and perspective on Java." But the ASF was "effectively voting against moving Java forward," Messinger said, and "Oracle has a responsibility to move Java forward and to maintain the uniformity of the Java standard for the millions of Java developers and the majority of Executive Committee member agree."

During the Oracle OpenWorld conference in September Oracle executives promised to maintain Java's open source status. But in August Oracle sued Google claiming that Google's Android mobile operating system violated Java patents and copyrights. That could signal Oracle's intention to aggressively defend its Java intellectual property.

The flap over the future of Java is part of a larger question over Oracle's commitment to open-source technology. Earlier this year Oracle decided to discontinue development of OpenSolaris, the open-source version of the Solaris operating system, and has developed a version of Linux that's incompatible with Red Hat.

Adding to the concerns were the departures of James Gosling, the original designer of Java, and Simon Phipps, Sun's chief open-source officer, following the Sun acquisition.