Oracle's acquisition of Java founder Sun Microsystems, which finally closed in January after lingering for eight months, placed Oracle in charge of Java -- or did it?
On the surface, it would seem Oracle, as the new proprietor of all things Sun, is now the master of Java's fate. Besides inventing Java, Sun had steered important Java technologies such as the GlassFish application server, which has served as the open source reference implementation of enterprise Java. Sun also held power in the Java Community Process (JCP), the official scheme for amending Java.
But there has been more to Java than the guidance of its founding company. Many other industry players -- including the Apache Software Foundation, Eclipse Foundation, JBoss, and SpringSource -- have made vital contributions to the ecosystem regardless of what Sun was doing.
For example, the Spring Framework for Java development has served as an alternative to Java technologies officially sanctioned within the JCP. Apache has also built implementations of official Java technology.
So Oracle, while still perhaps the most powerful player in the Java space, is by no means the only one that can decide what happens with the popular platform and language. In fact, it may not even be the major driver behind Java innovation.
"I think it's clear that most of the innovation we see in the in the Java world today is coming from outside Oracle," says Rod Johnson, founder of the Spring Framework and general manager of the SpringSource business unit at EMC VMware. (VMware recently bought SpringSource.) He lists his own Spring technologies as well as the Google Web Toolkit and Eclipse tooling as prime examples.
To its credit, Sun enabled all this to happen by making Java available to anyone who wanted it. Java founder James Gosling strongly encouraged such openness; thanks to his efforts, even before Sun open-sourced Java in 2006, that Java source code already was available.
Spring and Eclipse lead the pack of rival Java technologies
The Spring Framework, which has been downloaded an estimated 3 million times, debuted in 2004. Johnson says he developed it to provide a simpler alternative to official Java technologies such as J2EE and Enterprise JavaBeans. "They typically made a lot of applications very, very difficult" and overly complex to implement, Johnson says.
"I think truly it has gotten to the point [where Spring Framework] is the de facto choice for enterprise Java development today," Johnson adds.