Pragmatism over Harmony

Times like this morning, we can really appreciate that the east coast is the right coast, as you get a nice early start on the day. We caught announcement of IBM’s agreement with Oracle to shift JDK development efforts from Apache harmony to Oracle’s (formerly Sun’s) OpenJDK project for about 5 minutes as we were literally running to the JetBlue gate at JFK on the way to SFO. By the following morning, bright and early west coast time, the verdict was out: The announcement clearly knocks the pillars out from under Google’s Dalvik JVM project, which was based on Apache Harmony.

Good summaries of the announcement are available from Gavin Clarke; great commentary is available from Shain McGlaun, Carlo Daffara, and Sacha Labourey.

As Thinkovation’s Gary Barnett tweeted to us yesterday, the announcement was Deja moo all over again. We were recalling sitting in the audience at JavaOne 2005 where Steve Mills appeared in a video reiterating support for the Java Community process in spite of differences with Sun over its more-than-equal role in governing the JCP and, of course, IBM’s successful effort in cultivating Eclipse as the successful rival to Sun in the Java tooling space.

One of the critiques of Sun over the years regarding Java was that (1) they couldn’t make a viable business of it and (2) that their stewardship over the JCP and the OpenJDK was too heavy-handed. Well, the first critique would hardly apply to Oracle, with its recently filing of litigation with Google over the so-called clean room Darvik JVM which it created, based on content from the Apache Harmony JDK (the rival to OpenJDK with which IBM was heavily vested).

IBM’s Bob Sutor characterized the agreement as “the pragmatic choice,” providing a way to work with Oracle from the inside to open up access to the Java certification tests that it denied Apache.

Clearly the bystander is Google; with IBM’s agreement to dump Apache Harmony, Google is left exposed as its Dalvik code uses class libraries from the Harmony project that IBM has abandoned. In essence, IBM didn’t have a dog in the Oracle/Google fight over Android. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Google has become the giant pin cushion as it sits on piles of search ad dollars yet, as a player in the Java community, is an outsider whose not-invented here mentality has not exactly conjured grassroots support in the Java community.

Labourey, formerly of JBoss, summarized the prospects for the Red Hats of the world to essentially accept the new status quo. For Google, it’s another fact on the ground that, in the end, will likely result in its coming to a royalty settlement with Oracle sooner rather than later.

Oct. 20 Update — The Register’s Gavin Clarke has a scoop on the fallout at Apache.

One thought on “Pragmatism over Harmony”

Comments are closed.