Sun refashions Java support options

Fee-based program extends support to 15 years while free program is reduced from six years to three years for support

Sun Microsystems is refashioning customer support options for Java Platform, Standard Edition (SE), extending support to 15 years under one paid plan and reducing it from six years to three years under an alternative free plan.

Featured is a new paid subscription program called Java SE for Business, which provides fixes for the 1.4, 5, and 6 versions of Java SE.

Under the previous plan, Sun provided quarterly fixes for release families of Java SE for six years, said Bill Curci, Sun product marketing manager for Java SE. "Now with Java SE for Business, customers can more than double that timeline to a total of 15 years where they can receive fixes per release family," Curci said. Java SE is the basic runtime environment for desktops and servers.

ISVs, integrators, and service providers can offer Java SE for Business to their customers.

But quarterly updates for Java SE will be offered for just three years to those not opting for the Java SE for Business program; it had been six years but remains free. Also, support for the open source Java platform will continue via the OpenJDK (Java Development Kit) community.

"Customers have a new range of choices to be able to get the range and level of service they want for their apps," Curci said.

Java SE for Business also includes faster access to fixes and enterprise features designed to reduce the cost of deployment, such as access to Sun xVM Ops Center, a set of tools and services for managing software and systems in enterprises. Customers can manage and track Java applications. Security fixes also will be available.

In reducing the standard support to three years, Curci said Sun is aligning with customer feedback in which some users and developers use the latest release of Java while business customers want more extended service. Customers who want to stay current can continue to use Java SE, while Java SE for Business will be the ideal option for business or mission-critical support, he said.

Sun's program helps ISVs and enterprises, an analyst said.

"Some ISVs don't want or aren't in a position to continually update their products with the newest versions of Java bundled in," said analyst Joe Niski of Burton Group. The new program provides assurances for ISVs and their customers that the underlying technologies will continue to be supported, he said.

Asked about how upset customers might get about having support reduced from six years to three years if they are not part of Java SE for Business, Niski said Sun would not have gone through the trouble of figuring out the program if it did not have customer buy-in.

Java SE for Business costs $10 per employee per year for a standard subscription and scales to $12.50 per employee per year for Premium Plus service featuring faster and customized fixes.

Java SE for Business is to be extended to cover Java SE 7, which is expected in 2009. 

The Enterprise Edition of Java builds on Java SE and adds enterprise functionality such as an application server.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

How to choose a low-code development platform