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Future of Jakarta Is in the Cloud, Not with the JCP: One-on-One with Mike Milinkovich

The Eclipse Foundation today unveiled its game plan for Jakarta EE, published the results of a community survey on the future of that technology platform, and explained the open source governance model it will use to manage its development going forward.

It almost goes without saying that taking over the responsibility for the development of enterprise Java is an enormous undertaking. But I didn't realize until I spoke with the Foundation's executive director, Mike Milinkovich, that his organization would also be taking over the responsibilities of the Java Community Process (JCP), guiding and approving the Jakarta EE technical specifications going forward.

I talked with Milinkovich about these changes last week.

Specification approval is fresh territory for the Eclipse Foundation. How are you dealing with this new responsibility?
This is the first time the Eclipse Foundation has had to put together a specification process. We don't even know what we're going to call it yet. We do know that new specification process is going to be different in many ways from the JCP's. The new versions of the JCP process have been open and transparent. However, the fact that the JCP was owned and operated by Oracle, and to participate you had to sign the Oracle contributor agreement and give the company joint ownership of your contributions were perceived as barriers to entry. Partners in partners in industry, individual developers, and everybody in between no longer accept this as state of the art, in terms of how you move an important technology platform forward.

How will your approach be different?
What we are going to be striving for in this new spec process is openness and transparency, of course, but also to provide a level playing field, in terms of the intellectual property flows, and absolutely state-of-the-art best practices for developing specifications, with the expectations of open-source and commercial implementations resulting from those specs."

Just to be clear, the Eclipse Jakarta EE Working Group is where the new specification process is going to be managed entirely, and the JCP is out of the picture. Right?
Right. The JCP is going to continue to exist, of course, but it will be focused entirely on the Java language platform, the JDK, the JRE, that level of the Java technology. The Eclipse Foundation and its members and the Jakarta EE Working Group will define the future evolution of cloud-native Java.

"Cloud-native" is already something of a mantra for Jakarta EE, largely because of the survey results, but you guys were already thinking along these lines, weren't you?
Ultimately, what we are trying to do here is to take a technology that is approaching its 20th birthday and give it a whole new life. I have to say, when I talk to people, whether it's in person or through the mailing list, there is still an enormous amount of energy and passion in the Java EE community. If we can tap into that and give developers the tools they need on this platform to be successful in this new cloud-native, microservices-centric kind of world, they're going to love what's coming out of the Jakarta EE projects. This is an opportunity for this community to get a whole second generation of technology and momentum, and that's really what we are working very, very hard toward.

What happens to the millions of people who are still using Java EE?
People using older versions of Java EE will continue to get support. This is not the end of Java EE. Java EE 8 just shipped. The existing vendors -- Oracle, IBM, Red Hat, Tomitribe, and others -- are going to be supporting Java EE 8 and previous versions under the Java EE brand for many years to come.

How involved are the big vendors with this new process?
One of the things that's different about the way we set up this working group, which I think is very important, is that we have explicitly carved out a role here for enterprises that are the big adopters of the technology. The big vendors that are contributing lots of resources to this are going to be on the steering committee to help guide the project.

Why are you going after enterprise adopters?
What we really want here is to get the big consumers of this technology actively engaged with this community and its projects and its governance. Even beyond Jakarta, I believe that this the next big wave in open source, to get the big consumers of the technology to move from being passive consumers to being actively involved with, and helping to sustain, the technologies that they rely on. That's something that we are going to working on, very hard, over the next year, to get the message out to enterprises that, if you are relying on this tech, come join in and become part of this community. Don't just sit there and download the releases when they're done. Open source gives you the opportunity to be a much more active participant than the historical vendor/customer relationship.

You've said before that "Jakarta" isn't really a rebranding of Java EE. Could you explain that statement?
There was a lot of controversy around Oracle's refusal to allow the use of "Java EE," but the truth is, keeping that brand would have been a bad idea. The Java EE brand, I believe, is cemented in developers' minds to the on-premise, monolithic app server model. But Jakarta EE is about cloud-native and microservices. This as an opportunity for us to use that new name and new brand to bring new value to developers. There are developers out there who would probably never take the time to try a new version of Java EE. But there's a good chance that they'll take the time to try a new version of Jakarta EE. And I think that's a good opportunity for all of us.

What's the status of "EE4J"?
Everyone was calling Java EE at Eclipse EE4J for a while because we had to call it something during the transition. Now, "EE4J" is simply an Eclipse Foundation organizational artifact. It's not the name of the technology or its brand. It refers only to the top-level project that things like Eclipse Glassfish and Eclipse Jersey fall under. Those projects live under the management of the EE4J Project Management Committee.

Does the fact that Java EE, which is one of the world's most widely used technology platforms, found its way to open source say anything the status of open source or the evolution of this kind of software?
I believe it's indicative of a trend. When you have a technology that has become an industry standard, as opposed to a company product, bringing it into an open-source organization like the Eclipse Foundation, the Apache Software Foundation, or the Linux Foundation is the best way to ensure that the entire ecosystem will trust your technology. It's what you must do if you want to inspire global adoption of your technology. This is an incredible endorsement of our respective institutions. And it's important that there is more than one, so we people have a choice.

Jakarta EE is another example of that trend, and a pretty big one. If we get this right -- and we will -- it's going to be one of the most amazing technology journeys to watch in quite a few years. We are extremely optimistic that we are going to be able to bring this platform forward with the support of a passionate and engaged community. And it's going to be a lot of fun.

Posted by John K. Waters on April 24, 2018