Java EE 6 Specification Withdrawn Over Licensing Concerns

On April 13, Sun Microsystems, the specification lead for Java EE 6 (JSR-313) withdrew the specification because of licensing concerns expressed by members of the Java EE 6 Expert Group.

The following companies abstained from a vote authorizing specification work to proceed: Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Oracle, and SAP. BEA Systems, Fujitsu, IBM, and others did not vote. In choosing to abstain, SAP provided the following comment:

We will need to get more clarification for the new proposed license terms which seem to require a license fee per Java EE profile. If this means a fundamental change in the Java EE licensing model, SAP may decide to vote “NO” on this JSR based on the proposed license terms.

This development is significant, because, these companies are the heavyweights of the Java community.  Java EE 6 cannot proceed unless their issues are addressed.

The Java EE Profiles mentioned by SAP are subsets of Java EE tailored to specific application domains. As Java EE has grown in size and complexity, there has been increasing demand from vendors to componentize Java EE so that a variety of distributions can be created to serve specific markets. One example of such a profile, described in the JSR-313 Request, is for a Java EE Web Profile targeting Web developers. This is how the Web Profile is described in the JSR Request:

Java EE Web Profile - a subset of the Java EE platform targeted at web application development. This profile will provide a more gentle introduction to the Java EE platform, providing only those technologies needed by most web application developers, without the enterprise technologies that sometimes confuse such developers.

Presumably, Expert Group members would prefer a single Java EE license that includes the profiles. However, as described in Section 2.18 of the JSR-313 Request, there are separate licenses (and license fees) for Java EE and the Java EE Web Profile.

For the sake of the entire Java community, I hope that this issue get resolved quickly and that Java EE 6 gets back on track. The concept of Java EE Profiles is vital to keeping server side Java flexible, innovative, and adaptable.

On another note, Java licensing is a hot topic these days, with the Apache Software Foundation’s open letter to Sun regarding problems with the terms of the Java SE 5 TCK. There has been some heated discussion of this issue at TheServerSide.com.

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