OpenJDK 8 and 11: Still in safe hands
In 2018, Oracle announced that it would only provide free public updates and auto-updates of Java SE 8 for commercial users until the end of January 2019. Java 8 is a very important platform, used by millions of programmers, so this was a big deal. The Java community needed to fill the gap.
In February of this year, I was appointed as the new Lead of the OpenJDK 8 Update Releases Project. A couple of weeks later, I was appointed the new Lead of the OpenJDK 11 Updates Project. This is an important milestone in the history of OpenJDK and of Java SE because it’s the first time that a non-Oracle employee has led the current long-term OpenJDK release project. JDK 8 is still a much-used Java release in industry, and JDK 11 is the current long-term maintenance release.
It’s now a couple of weeks after the first releases of JDK8u and JDK11u on my watch. I think the process went pretty well, although it was not entirely smooth sailing for the developers. Having said that, we got our releases out on the day, as planned, and so far we’ve seen no major problems.
There had been a considerable amount of talk, some of it verging on panic, about Oracle ceasing to provide free long-term JDK update binaries to commercial users. At the time, I believed those worries were misplaced. Now, with these releases, I think we’ve proved it.
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Red Hat’s role
Of course, I’m not doing this on my own. We have a large team of OpenJDK developers within Red Hat and there are many non-Red Hatters working on the releases, too. There are also people doing highly confidential security work that you’ll not see until it’s ready.
It’s important to clarify Red Hat’s role in all of this. We are one of the largest contributors to OpenJDK, we have been for many years, and we will continue to be. However, we have not “taken over” OpenJDK updates projects, and neither would we want to. Our role in OpenJDK, as in many other projects, is to be a catalyst in communities of customers, contributors, and partners. This means that we work with others, some of whom are our competitors, in the best interests of the project. The changes Red Hat makes to OpenJDK updates are based on patches from many sources. We wrote many of them ourselves, of course, but we take them from all of the OpenJDK contributors.
My role in this as Project Lead is to supervise, encourage, and occasionally make decisions about how best to protect these precious jewels, the OpenJDK updates. I have to do so without favoring any vendor. Not only must I be impartial, but I must also be seen by everyone to be so. This way of behaving is in Red Hat’s best interests: a better OpenJDK for everyone encourages more users and more contributors. In the end, the best outcome for Red Hat is the best outcome for everyone.