A Year in the JCP Executive Committee

A year ago, CloudBees was elected to serve on the Executive Committee (EC) of the Java Community Process (JCP). One of the recent JCP changes combined the “big Java” (Java SE and EE) EC with the “little Java” EC, so all current members are up now for re-election. If you’re a JCP member, you should have received an email invitation to vote. You should vote!

So what was the last year like in the EC? First, the executive summary: Things are improving! This is true by a number of objective measures:
  • Java EE was reviewed and approved, including approximately 15 updated or new JSRs
  • JSR 358 is underway to address some of the tougher rule changes, intellectual property flow and procedural issues that will encourage simpler, broader engagement in the work of the JCP by more people
  • The JUG-driven initiatives, Adopt-a-JSR and AdoptOpenJDK, to improve community involvement in the JCP have expanded
  • More JUGs are participating in the JCP, and they’re truly a key part of connecting with Java developers across the world

 

The EC sausage-making behind the scenes is not nearly so neat. The good news is that if you’re tenacious enough, you can read about it in glorious detail. Let me provide some highlights to give you a flavor:

  • A lot of discussion has revolved around a “flat IP” policy change under JSR 358. Today, all intellectual property (IP) in JSRs essentially flows through Oracle. As one yardstick, recognize that when you participate in the JCP, you sign an agreement, the Java Specification Participation Agreement (JSPA), between you and Oracle, not between you and an organization called the JCP. The JSPA specifies how your contributions - intellectual property - to a JSR are handled. In effect, the spec lead (over 90% Oracle today) gets rights to what you contribute, and must grant rights to the reference implementation and its test suite. Oracle gets special rights in all cases today. Work is underway to “flatten” the process, so that IP flows from the contributors to others directly, without continuing to have Oracle at the hub of an IP wheel.

  • The issue of IP “flow” has consumed much of the energy of the EC, a tedious task involving representatives of traditional Java stakeholders along with others across the spectrum. Understandably, these players come from different backgrounds, with different axes to grind. One of our major points of disagreement within the EC has been over how “open” Test Compatibility Kits (TCKs) are, since they are key to delivering independent but compatible implementations of specifications. If you remember the dispute over the Apache Harmony project’s access to the TCK, you’ll know why this is a touchy subject. We’ve made some progress, and it’s going to take more painstaking work. I would summarize the situation as being one in which all parties are trying to open things up and make licensing available under easily understood and well-known licenses, but that doing so within Oracle’s constraints is a challenge.

  • Everyone would like to see community participation expanded. While the Adopt-a-JSR and AdoptOpenJDK programs are terrific, we’d also like to make it simpler for individuals and organizations to join the JCP and participate in JSRs at levels they feel comfortable with. If you’ve ever looked at the JSPA, you will see that it’s intimidating to be asked to sign it without hiring a lawyer first! There are now very active discussions in the EC about how to formalize simpler mechanisms to participate, and how those changes intersect with the IP flow and other processes in the JCP today.

Does that sound like fun!? Let’s be truthful: it’s mostly hard committee work that most people would not characterize as fun. But engaging with thoughtful and informed colleagues from across the Java community in an effort to improve the JCP definitely makes it worthwhile.

How should you cast your vote? Of course, I hope you will support CloudBees! Beyond that, I hope you will consider candidates who combine the tenacity to make progress on the kinds of difficult issues I was describing above with a deep appreciation of the interests of the developer community. The community is what continues to drive Java forward, and the JCP needs to continue to evolve in ways that embrace the community’s interests as its number one priority.

— Steven G. Harris
CloudBees, Inc.
 
 
Steven Harris is senior vice president of products at CloudBees. Follow Steve on Twitter.
 
 

 

 

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