Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Should you adopt Java 12 or stick on Java 11?

Should you adopt Java 12 or stick on Java 11 for the next 3 years? Seems like an innocuous question, but it is one of the most important decisions out there for those running on the JVM. I'll try to cover the key aspects of the decision, with the assumption that you care about running with the latest set of security patches in production.

TL;DR, It is vital to fully understand and accept the risks before adopting Java 12.

The Java release train

There is now a new release of Java every six months, so Java 12 is less than five months away despite Java 11 having just been released. As part of the process of moving to more frequent releases, certain releases are designated to be LTS (long term support) and as such will have security patches available for four years or more. This makes them "major" releases, not because they have a bigger feature set but because they have multi year support.

It is expected that Java 11 patches (11.0.1, 11.0.2, 11.0.3, etc.) will be smaller and simpler than Java 8 updates (8u20, 8u40, 8u60, etc.) - Java 11 updates will be more focused on security patches, without the internal enhancements of Java 8 updates. Instead, Oracle want us to think of Java 12, 13, 14 etc. as small upgrades, similar to an imaginary Java 11u20, 11u40 etc. To be blunt, I find this nonsensical.

Senior Oracle employees have repeatedly argued that updates such as 8u20 and 8u40 often broke code. This was not my experience. In fact my experience was that update releases primarily contained bug fixes. The only break I can remember was the addition of --allow-script-in-comments to Javadoc, which isn't a core part of Java. As a result, I have never feared picking up the latest update release - and this has been a core benefit of the Java platform.

Drilling down into why update releases tend to cause no problems, lets examine the differences between release types:

Model Old model New model
Upgrade Java major releases Java update releases Java release train Java patches
Frequency Every 3 years or so Every 6 months Every 6 months Every 3 months
Versions 6 -> 7 -> 8 8 -> 8u20 -> 8u40 11 -> 12 -> 13 11 -> 11.0.1 -> 11.0.2
Language changes
JVM changes
Major enhancements
Added classes/methods
Removed classes/methods
New deprecations
Internal enhancements
JDK tool changes
Bug fixes
Security patches

Given the table above, I find it amazing that anyone would claim moving from 11 to 12 to 13 is anything like moving from 8u20 to 8u40. But that is the official Oracle viewpoint:

Going from Java 9->10->11 is closer to going from 8->8u20->8u40 than from 7->8->9.
Oracle FAQ

As the table clearly shows, each version in the Java release train can contain any change traditionally associated with a full major version. These include language changes and JVM changes, both of which have major impacts on IDEs, bytecode libraries and frameworks. In addition, there will not only be additional APIs, but also API removals (something that did not happen prior to 8).

Oracle's claim is that because each release is only 6 months after the previous one, there won't be as much "stuff" in it, thus it won't be as hard to upgrade. While true, it is also irrelevant. What matters is whether the upgrade has the potential to damage your code stack or not. And clearly, going from 11 -> 12 -> 13 has much greater potential for damage than 8 -> 8u20 -> 8u40 ever did.

The key difference compared to updates like 8u20 -> 8u40 are the changes to the bytecode version, and the changes to the specification. Changes to the bytecode version tend to be particularly disruptive, with most frameworks making heavy use of libraries like ASM or ByteBuddy that are intimately linked to each bytecode version. And moving from 8u20 -> 8u40 still had the same Java SE specification, with all the same classes and methods, something that cannot be relied on moving from 12 to 13. I simply do not accept Oracle's argument that the "amount of stuff" in a release is more significant than the "type of stuff".

Note however that another one of Oracle's claims really does matter. They point out that if you stick with Java 11 and plan to move to the next LTS version when it is released (ie. Java 17) that you might find your code doesn't compile. Remember that the Java development rules now state that an API method can be deprecated in one version and removed in the next one. Rules that do not take LTS releases into account. So, a method could be deprecated in 13 and removed in 15. Someone upgrading from 11 to 17 would simply find a deleted API having having never seen the deprecation. Lets not panic too much about removal though - the only APIs likely to be removed are specialist ones, not those in widespread use by application code.

Considerations before adopting the release train

In this section, I try to outline some of the considerations/risks that must be considered before adopting the release train.

Locked in to the train
If you adopt Java 12 and use a new language feature or new API, then you are effectively locking your project in to the release train. You have to adopt Java 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17. And you have to adopt each new release within one month of the next release coming out.

Remember that with the new release train, each release has a lifetime of six months, and is obsolete just seven months after release. That is because there will be only six months of security patches for each release, the first patch 1 month after release and the second 4 months after release. After 7 months, the next set of security patches come out but the older release will not get them.

Do your processes allow for a Java upgrade, any necessary bug fixing, testing and release within that narrow 1 month time window? Or are you willing to run in production on a Java version below the security baseline?

Upgrade blockers
There are many possible things that can block an upgrade of Java. Lets make a list of some of the common ones.

Insufficient development resources: Your team may get busy, or be downsized, or the project may go to production and the team disbanded. Can you guarantee that development time will be available to do the upgrade from Java 15 to 16 in two years time?

Build tools and IDEs: Will your IDE support each new version on the day of release? Will Maven? Gradle? Do you have a backup plan if they don't? Remember, you only have 1 month to complete the upgrade, test it and get it released to production. Under this section other tools include Checkstyle, JaCoCo, PMD, SpotBugs and many more.

Dependencies: Will your dependencies all be ready for each new version? Quickly enough for you to meet the 1 month deadline? Remember, it is not just your direct dependencies, but everything in your stack. Bytecode manipulation libraries are particularly affected for example, such as ByteBuddy and ASM.

Frameworks: Another kind of dependency, but a large and important one. Will Spring produce a new version every six months, within the narrow one month time window? Will Jakarta EE (formerly Java EE)? What happens if they don't?

Now the traditional approach to any of these blockers was to wait. With versions of Java up to 8, a common approach was to wait 6 to 12 months before starting the upgrade to give tools, libraries and frameworks the chance to fix any bugs. But of course the waiting approach is incompatible with the release train.

Cloud / Hosting / Deployment
Do you have control of where and how your code runs in production? For example, if you run your code in AWS Lambda you do not have control. AWS Lambda has not adopted Java 9 or 10, and they don't even have Java 11 even though it is over a month after release. Unless AWS give a public guarantee to support each new Java version, then you simply can't adopt Java 12. (My working assumption is that AWS Lambda will only support major LTS versions, supported by the Amazon Corretto JDK announcement.)

What about hosting of your CI system? Will Jenkins, Travis, Circle, Shippable, GitLab be updated quickly? What do you do if they are not?

Predicting the future
Perhaps you have read through the list above and are happy your code and processes today can cope. Great! But it is critical to understand that you are also restricting your ability to change in the future.

For example, maybe your code doesn't run on AWS Lambda today. But are you willing to say you can't do so for the next three years?

Planning for the release train

If you are considering adopting the release train, I recommend preparing a list of all the things you depend on now, or might depend on in the next 3 years. You need to be confident that everything on that list will work correctly and be upgraded along with the release train, or have a plan if that dependency is not upgraded. The list for my day job is something like this:

  • Amazon AWS
  • Eclipse
  • IntelliJ
  • Travis CI
  • Shippable CI
  • Maven
  • Maven plugins (compile, jar, source, javadoc, etc)
  • Checkstyle, & associated IDE plugins and maven plugin
  • JaCoCo, & associated IDE plugins and maven plugin
  • PMD, & associated maven plugin
  • SpotBugs, & associated maven plugin
  • OSGi bundle metadata tool
  • Bytecode tools (Byte buddy / ASM etc)
  • Over 100 jar file dependencies

And I've probably forgotten something.

Don't get me wrong. I think it is perfectly possible to make a choice to say that you are willing to take the risk. That the benefits of new language features, and probable enhanced performance, make the effort worthwhile. But I strongly believe it is more risky than remaining on Java 11.

A middle ground?

One possible middle ground is to develop your application for Java 12, but run it in production on Java 13, 14, 15 etc. as soon as they come out. Sadly, this approach is less viable than it should be.

The removal of APIs and changes to the bytecode version add uncertainty to the stack. Even if your code doesn't use one of the removed APIs, one of your libraries might. Or a bytecode manipulation library might need upgrading, with knock on effects. So while the middle ground is a possible fallback if you get stuck, it is far from a no-risk solution.

Some additional links

Spring framework has expressed its policy wrt Java 12 in a video. The key sections are:

Jaba 8 and 11 as the LTS branches officially supported from our end. Best efforts support for the releases inbetween. ... if you intend to upgrade to 12 ... we are very willing to work with you ... but they are not officially production supported. ... The long term support releases are what we are primarily focussed on. Java 12 and higher will be best effort from our side.

As an example of a typical software vendor, Liferay states:

Liferay has decided we will not certify every single major release of the JDK. We will instead choose to follow Oracle's lead and certify only those marked for LTS.
Liferay blog

Oracle's official "misconceptions" slide about the new release model.


I'm sure some development teams will adopt the Java release train. My hope is that they do so with their eyes wide open. I know we won't be adopting the release train at my day job any time soon, a key blocker being our use of AWS Lambda, but I'd be concerned about all the other points too.

Feel free to leave a comment, especially if you think I've missed any points that should be on the considerations list.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Oracle's Java 11 trap - Use OpenJDK instead!

TL:DR; Java is still available at zero-cost, you just need to stop using Oracle JDK and start using an OpenJDK build, such as this one or this one.

The trap

Java 11 has been released. It is a major release because it has long-term support (LTS). But Oracle have also set it up to be a trap (either deliberately or accidentally).

For 23 years, developers have downloaded the JDK from Oracle and used it for $free. Type "JDK" into your favourite search engine, and the top link will be to an Oracle Java SE download page (I'm deliberately not providing a link). But that search and that link is now a trap.

Oracle JDK, the one all web searches take you to, is now commercial not $free.

The key part of the terms is as follows:

You may not: use the Programs for any data processing or any commercial, production, or internal business purposes other than developing, testing, prototyping, and demonstrating your Application;

The trap is as follows:

  1. Download Oracle JDK (because that is what you've always done, and it is what the web-search tells you)
  2. Use it in production (because you didn't realise the license changed)
  3. Get a nasty phone call from Oracle's license enforcement teams demanding lots of money

In other words, Oracle can rely on inertia from Java developers to cause them to download the wrong (commercial) release of Java. Unless you read the text/warnings/legalese very carefully you might not even realise Oracle JDK is now commercial, and that you are therefore liable to pay Oracle for using this particular JDK in production.

(Update, 2018-10-03: Searches for Java 11 and JDK 11 now seem to be resolving to OpenJDK builds, not commercial ones!)

Is this trap malicious behaviour on the part of Oracle? Readers will have their own opinions. I do suggest bearing in mind that Oracle invests huge amounts in developing Java, so it is reasonable to have a commercial plan available for those that want it. And they do provide a $free alternative completely valid for commercial use...

The solution

The solution is simple!

Use an OpenJDK build.

There are many different $free OpenJDK builds of Java 11, so you need to choose the one that best fits your needs.

The AdoptOpenJDK build is $free, GPL licensed (with Classpath exception so safe for commercial use), and a good choice as it is vendor-neutral and is intended to have 4+ years of security patches.

Download $free Java from AdoptOpenJDK here.

The OpenJDK build from Oracle is $free, GPL licensed (with Classpath exception so safe for commercial use), and provided alongside their commercial offering. It will only have 6 months of security patches, after that Oracle intends you to upgrade to Java 12.

Download $free Java from Oracle here.

More Java 11 OpenJDK builds are expected from Azul Zulu and your standard package manager.

See my posts on zero-cost Java and the wide variety of OpenJDK builds for more details.

And for a counterpoint, see Marcus' great summary of why the underlying changes here are actually good news.


Do NOT download or use the Oracle JDK unless you intend to pay for it.

For Java 11, download and use an OpenJDK build, from AdoptOpenJDK , Oracle or elsewhere.

(No comments on this post. There are plenty of other places to express opinions.)

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Java release chains - Splitting features from security

There is now a Java release every 6 months - March and September. It started with Java 9 and we're about to get Java 11. But should you jump on the release train? To answer that, we need to look at how Java's release chains are being split.

Looking back at Java 8

In the olden days life was simple. There was a "major" Java release every few years and it contained lots of new features, for example Java 5, 6, 7 and 8. Each major release included new JDK methods, new JDK classes, deprecations, new JVM features and new language features. However, life wasn't actually as simple as it seemed.

Looking at Java 8, once it was released there was a regular frequency of "update" releases. The most well-known of these were 8u20, 8u40 and 8u60. But there were also many others - 8u5, 8u11, 8u25, 8u31, 8u45, 8u51, 8u65, 8u66, 8u71, 8u73, 8u74, 8u77, etc. So, what was going on?

Well the plan was quite simple, just not that widely known. 8u20, 8u40, 8u60 and so on were "feature" releases, while all the rest were security patch releases. See the full table.

  • 8u20, 8u40, 8u60 and so on were "feature" releases - every six months
  • 8u5, 8u11, 8u25, 8u31 and so on were "security" releases - every three months, plus additional emergency releases

If you look closely, you can see a pattern. The first security release after a feature release had a number 5 greater (8u25 is 5 greater than 8u20). The second security release after a feature release had a number 11 greater (8u31 is 11 greater than 8u20). This left space for emergency security releases like 8u66.

So what was a Java 8 feature release?

Well a feature release was allowed to contain anything that didn't impact the Java SE specification. So, JVM or tool enhancements might be allowed, particularly if covered by a flag that was disabled by default. For example, the "endorsed-standards override mechanism and the extension mechanism" was deprecated in 8u40, 8u60 added a new IBM character set, and 8u181 removed the Derby database from the JDK bundle.

If you did notice these feature releases, it might have been because Java 8 lambdas were pretty buggy until 8u40 (in my experience). As such, I've often commented that 8u40 should have been named 8.1 (although logically 8u20 would have been 8.1 and 8u40 would have been 8.2). Such a version numbering scheme would have been easy to grasp for the whole Java ecosystem, but sadly didn't happen with Java 8.

Java 11 and the release train

The observant will notice that there was a feature release every six months and a security release every three months. But this is exactly like the "new" release train post Java 9!

The key difference between then and now is that from Java 9 onwards each six-monthly "feature" release can now contain any change. Thus major JVM, library and language changes can be introduced every six months, which wasn't allowed before. It also means there is a new Java SE specification for each feature release.

To handle this high frequency and still provide stability, every three years, which is every six releases, there will be an "LTS" release - long term support. As I've discussed before, the LTS name is rather confusing given that Oracle will not be providing security patches beyond six months on an "long-term" LTS release for $free. (Read the linked blog to understand how the OpenJDK will be performing that role from now on.)

Obviously with this new release schedule the question of naming arose. Firstly, according to Oracle we are not supposed to refer to any release as a "major" release. Instead, all should be considered to be "feature" releases, and of equal importance. This is emphasised by using a single incrementing number - 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and so on.

But are all releases really of equal importance when some have long-term support (LTS)?

The answer is clearly no. For many large companies, the LTS releases are the only ones that they will consider adopting, either to manage churn or because they insist on purchasing a support contract for Java. Thus only one conclusion can be drawn:

Java 11 is a major release because it has LTS, not because of its feature set. Java 12, 13 and so on are less significant simply because they do not have LTS.

Now this doesn't mean that Java 12 is any less tested or is in some way unsuited for general use. Nor does it mean that Java 11 is bigger than any of the other versions. It is simply a statement of fact that because Java 11 has LTS (long-term support) it will be more significant, and see adoption by a different type of user.

Release chains

The support model is built on chains of releases. In order to pick up a security patch, you may also have to pickup other changes. The support chain for any Java release is simple enough. The higher the number, the more fixes/features it contains. Thus 8u20 contains everything from 8u5 and 8u11.

Using bold for major/feature releases and italic for security patches we can see the pattern:

  • 8, 8u5, 8u11, 8u20, 8u25, 8u31, 8u40, 8u45, 8u51, 8u60, 8u65, 8u71, ...

From Java 9 onwards there are effectively two separate patterns.

Firstly, there is the "release train" pattern if you want both features and security patches:

  • 9, 9.0.1, 9.0.4, 10, 10.0.1, 10.0.2, 11, 11.0.1, 11.0.2, 12, 12.0.1, 12.0.2, ...

Secondly, there is the "LTS" pattern if you only want security patches:

  • 11, 11.0.1, 11.0.2, 11.0.3, 11.0.4, 11.0.6, 11.0.7, ...

Oracle is focussing its $free efforts on the first "release train" pattern. After 11.0.2, it is ultimately the job of the OpenJDK community (probably led by Red Hat) to keep the chain in the second "LTS" pattern going.

Note the key difference though. The two chains effectively split features from security.

In Oracle's view, the old Java 8 chain and the new "release train" chain are essentially equivalent. I disagree, but I need another blog article to explain why (as this one is already too long!).


There are now two separate chains of releases - the "release train" with both features and security patches, and the "LTS" with just security patches. Neither chain is equivalent to how it worked in Java 8, so you need to choose which chain to adopt carefully.

Comments welcome. For example, did an 8u feature release break your code?

Thursday, 6 September 2018

From Java 8 to Java 11

Moving from Java 8 to Java 11 is trickier than most upgrades. Here are a few of my notes on the process.

(And here are a couple of other blogs - Benjamin Winterberg and Leonardo Zanivan.)


Java 9 introduced one of the largest changes in the history of Java - modules. Much has been said on the topic, by me and others. A key point is sometimes forgotten however:

You do not have to modularise your code to upgrade to Java 11.

In most cases, code running on the classpath will continue to run on Java 9 and later where modules are completely ignored. This is terrible for library authors, but great for application developers.

So my advice is to ignore modules as much as you can when upgrading to Java 11. Turning your application into Java modules may be a useful thing to consider in a few years time when open source dependencies really start to adopt modules. Right now, attempting to modularise is just painful as few dependencies are modules.

(The main reason I've found to modularise your application is to be able to use jlink to shrink the size of the JDK. But in my opinion, you don't need to fully modularise to do this - just create a single jar-with-dependencies with a simple no-requires no-exports module-info.)

Deleted parts of the JDK

Some parts of the JDK have been removed. These were parts of Java EE and Corba that no longer fitted well with the JDK, or could be maintained elsewhere.

If you use Corba then there is little anyone can do to help you. However, if you use the Java EE modules then the fix for the deleted code should be simple in most cases. Just add the appropriate Maven jars.

On the Java client side, things are more tricky with the removal of Java WebStart. Consider using Getdown or Update4J instead.

Unsafe and friends

Sun and Oracle have been telling developers for years not to use sun.misc.Unsafe and other sharp-edge JDK APIs. For a long time, Java 9 was to be the release where those classes disappeared. But this never actually happened.

What you might get with Java 11 however is a warning. This warning will only be printed once, on first access to the restricted API. It is a useful reminder that your code, or a dependency, is doing something "naughty" and will need to be fixed at some point.

What you will also find is that Java 11 has a number of new APIs specifically designed to avoid the need to use Unsafe and friends. Make it a priority to investigate those new APIs if you are using an "illegal" API. For example, Base64, MethodHandles.privateLookupIn, MethodHandles.Lookup.defineClass, StackWalker and Variable Handles.

Tooling and Libraries

Modules and the new six-monthly release cycle have conspired to have a real impact on the tooling and libraries developers use. Some projects have been able to keep up. Some have struggled. Some have failed.

When upgrading to Java 11, a key task is to update all your dependencies to the latest version. If there hasn't been a release in since Java 9 came out, then that dependency may need extra care or testing. Make sure you've updated your IDE too.

But it is not just application dependencies that need updating, so does Maven (and Gradle too, but I don't know much about Gradle myself). Most Maven plugins have changed major versions to a v3.x, and upgrading Maven itself to v3.5.4 is also beneficial.

Sadly, the core maven team is very small, so there are still some bugs/issues to be solved. However, if your Maven build is sensible and simple enough, you should generally be OK. But do note that upgrading a plugin from a v2.x to a v3.x may involve changes to configuration beyond that just associated with modules. For example, the Maven Javadoc plugin has renamed the argLine property.

A key point to note is the way Maven operates with modules. When the Maven compiler or surefire plugin finds a jar file that is modular (ie. with a module-info.class) it can place that jar on the modulepath instead of the classpath. As such, even though you might intend to run the application fully on the classpath, Maven might compile and test the code partly on the classpath and partly on the modulepath. At present, there is nothing that can be done about this.

Sometimes your build will need some larger changes. For example, you will need to change Findbugs to SpotBugs. And change Cobertura to JaCoCo.

These build changes may take some time - they did for me. But the information available by a simple web search is increasing all the time.


I've upgraded a number of Joda/ThreeTen projects to support Java 9 or later now. It was very painful. But that is because as a library author I have to produce a jar file with module-info that builds and runs on Java 8, 9, 10 and 11. (In fact some of my jar files run on Java 6 and 7 too!)

Having done these migrations, my conclusion is that the pain is primarily in maintaining compatibility with Java 8. Moving an application to Java 11 should be simpler, because there is no need to stay tied to Java 8.

Comments welcome, but note that most "how to" questions should be on Stack Overflow, not here!

Monday, 3 September 2018

Time to look beyond Oracle's JDK

From Java 11 its time to think beyond Oracle's JDK. Time to appreciate the depth of the ecosystem built on OpenJDK. Here is a list of some key OpenJDK builds.

This is a quick follow up to my recent zero-cost Java post

OpenJDK builds

In practical terms, there is only one set of source code for the JDK. The source code is hosted in Mercurial at OpenJDK.

Anyone can take that source code, produce a build and publish it on a URL. But there is a distinct certification process that should be used to ensure the build is valid.

Certification is run by the Java Community Process, which provides a Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK, sometimes referred to as the JCK). If an organization produces an OpenJDK build that passes the TCK then that build can be described as "Java SE compatible".

Note that the build cannot be referred to as "Java SE" without the vendor getting a commercial license from Oracle. For example, builds from AdoptOpenJDK that pass the TCK are not "Java SE", but "Java SE compatible" or "compatible with the Java SE specification". Note also that certification is currently on a trust-basis - the results are not submitted to the JCP/Oracle for checking and cannot be made public. See Volker's excellent comment for more details.

To summarise, the OpenJDK + Vendor process turns one sourcebase into many different builds.

In the process of turning the OpenJDK sourcebase into a build, the vendor may, or may not, add some additional branding or utilities, provided these do not prevent certification. For example, a vendor cannot add a new public method to an API, or a new language feature.

Oracle JDK

From Java 11 this is a branded commercial build with paid-for support. It can be downloaded and used without cost only for development use. It cannot be used in production without paying Oracle (so it is a bit of a trap for the unwary). Oracle intends to provide full paid support until 2026 or later (details). Note that unlike in the past, the Oracle JDK is not "better" than the OpenJDK build (provided both are at the same security patch level). See here for more details of the small differences between Oracle JDK and the OpenJDk build by Oracle.

OpenJDK builds by Oracle

These are $free pure unbranded builds of OpenJDK under the GPL license with Classpath Extension (safe for use in companies). These builds are only available for the first 6 months of a release. For Java 11, the expectation is there will be Java 11.0.0, then two security patches 11.0.1 and 11.0.2. To continue using the OpenJDK build by Oracle with security patches, you would have to move to Java 12 within one month of it being released. (Note that the provision of security patches is not the same as support. Support involves paying someone to triage and act upon your bug reports.)

AdoptOpenJDK builds

These are $free pure unbranded builds of OpenJDK under the GPL license with Classpath Extension. Unlike the OpenJDK builds by Oracle, these builds will continue for a much longer period for major releases like Java 11. The Java 11 builds will continue for 4 years, one year after the next major release (details). AdoptOpenJDK is a community group. They will provide builds provided that other groups create and publish security patches in a source repository at OpenJDK. Both IBM and Red Hat have indicated that they intend to provide those security patches.

AdoptOpenJDK OpenJ9 builds

In addition to the standard OpenJDK builds, AdoptOpenJDK will also be providing builds with OpenJ9 instead of HotSpot. OpenJ9 was originally IBM's JVM, but OpenJ9 is now Open Source at Eclipse.

Red Hat OpenJDK builds

Red Hat provides builds of OpenJDK via Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) which is a commercial product with paid-for support (details). They are very good at providing security patches back to OpenJDK, and Red Hat has run the security updates project of Java 6 and 7. The Red Hat build is integrated better into the operating system, so it is not a pure OpenJDK build (although you wouldn't notice the difference).

Other Linux OpenJDK builds

Different Linux distros have different ways to access OpenJDK. Here are some links for common distros: Debian, Fedora, Arch, Ubuntu.

Azul Zulu

Zulu is a branded build of OpenJDK with commercial paid-for support. In addition, Azul provides some Zulu builds for $free as "Zulu Community", however there are no specific commitments as to the availability of those $free builds. Azul has an extensive plan for supporting Zulu commercially, including plans to support Java 9, 13 and 15, unlike any other vendor (details).

Amazon Corretto

In preview from 2018-11-14, this is a zero-cost build of OpenJDK with long-term support that passes the TCK. It is under the standard GPL+CE license of all OpenJDK builds. Amazon will be adding their own patches and running Corretto on AWS, so it will be very widely used. Java 8 support will be until at least June 2023.


IBM provides and supports a JDK for Java 8 and earlier. They also provide commercial paid-for support for the AdoptOpenJDK builds with OpenJ9.


SAP provides a JDK for Java 10 and later under the GPL+CE license. They also have a commercial closed-source JVM. I haven't found any information on support lifetimes.


Liberica from Bellsoft is a $free TCK verified OpenJDK distribution for x86, ARM32 and ARM64. I haven't found any information on support lifetimes.

ojdkbuild project

A community project sponsored by Red Hat that produces OpenJDK builds. They are the basis of Red Hat's Windows builds. The project has no customer support but does intend to provide builds so long as Red Hat supports a Java version. No information is provided about the TCK.


There are undoubtedly other builds of OpenJDK, both commercial and $free. Please contact me if you'd like me to consider adding another section.


There are many different builds of OpenJDK, the original upstream source repository. Each build offers its own unique take - $free or commercial, branded or unbranded.

Choice is great. But if you just want the "standard", currently my best advice is to use the OpenJDK builds by Oracle, AdoptOpenJDK builds or the one in your Operating System (Linux).

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Java is still available at zero-cost

The Java ecosystem has always been built on a high quality $free (zero-cost) JDK available from Oracle, and previously Sun. This is as true today as it always has been - but the new six-monthly release cycle does mean some big changes are happening.

Six-monthly releases

Java now has a release every six months, something which greatly impacts how each version is supported. By support, I mean the provision of update releases with security patches and important bug fixes.

Up to and including Java 8, $free security updates were provided for many years. Certainly up to and beyond the launch of the next version. With Java 9 and the six-monthly release cycle, this $free support is now much more tightly controlled.

In fact, Oracle will not be providing $free long-term support (LTS) for any single Java version at all from Java 11 onwards.

VersionRelease dateEnd of $free updates from Oracle
Java 8March 2014January 2019 (for commercial use)
Java 9Sept 2017March 2018
Java 10March 2018Sept 2018
Java 11Sept 2018March 2019 (might be extended, see below)
Java 12March 2019Sept 2019

The idea here is simple. Oracle wants to focus its energy on moving Java forward with the cost of long-term support directly paid for by customers (instead of giving it away for $free). To do this, they need developers to continually upgrade their version of Java, moving version every six months (and picking up the patch releases in-between). Of course, for most development shops, such rapid upgrade is not feasible. But Java is now developed as OpenJDK, which means that Oracle's support dates are not the only ones to consider.


A key point to grasp is that most JDK builds in the world are based on the open source OpenJDK project. The Oracle JDK is merely one of many builds that are based on the OpenJDK codebase. While it used to be the case that Oracle had additional extras in their JDK, as of Java 11 this is no longer the case.

Many other vendors also provide builds based on the OpenJDK codebase. These builds may have additional branding and/or additional non-core functionality. Most of these vendors also contribute back to the upstream OpenJDK project, including the security patches.

The impact is that the JDK you use should now be a choice you actively make, not passively accept. How fast can you get security patches? How long will it be supported? Do you need to be able to apply contractual pressure to a vendor to help with any issues?

In addition, there are two main ways that the JDK is obtained. The first is an update mechanism buit into the operating system (eg. *nix). The second is to visit a URL and download a binary (eg. Windows).

To examine this further, lets look at Java 8 and Java 11 separately.

Staying on Java 8

If you want to stay on Java 8 after January 2019, here are the choices as I see them:

1) Don't care about security.

It is entirely possible to remain on the last $free release forever. Just don't complain when hackers destroy your company.

2) Rely on Operating System updates.

On *nix platforms, you may well obtain your JDK via the operating system (eg. Red Hat, Debian, Fedora, Arch, etc.). And as such, updates to the JDK are delivered via the operating system vendor. This is where Red Hat's participation is key - they promise Java 8 updates until June 2023 in Red Hat Enterprise Linux - but they also have an "upstream first" policy, meaning they prefer to push fixes back to the "upstream" OpenJDK project. Whether you get security patches to the JDK or not will depend on your operating system vendor, and whether they need you to pay for those updates.

3) Pay for support.

A number of companies, including Azul, IBM, Oracle and Red Hat, offer ongoing support for Java. By paying them, you get access to the stream of security patches and update releases with certain guarantees (as opposed to volunteer-led approaches). If you have cash, maybe it is fair and reasonable to pay for Java?

4) Use the non-commercial build in a commercial setting.

Oracle will provide builds of Java 8 for non-commercial use until December 2020, so you could use those. But you don't want Oracle's software licensing teams chasing you, do you?

5) Build OpenJDK yourself.

The stream of security patches * is published to a public Mercurial repository under the GPL license. As such, it is perfectly possible to build OpenJDK yourself by keeping track of commits to that repository. I suspect this not a very realistic choice for most companies.

6) Use the builds from AdoptOpenJDK.

The community team at AdoptOpenJDK has been busy over the past few years creating a build farm and testing rig. As such, they are now able to take the stream of security patches * and turn them into releases, just like you would get from the commercial offerings. They are also running the Java TCK (testing compatibility kit) to allow these builds to be fully certified as being compatible with the Java SE specification. Their plan is to produce Java 8 builds until September 2023 or later (two years after Java 17 comes out). Obviously, you don't get a warranty or genuine support - its a community build farm project. But for most users that want to use Java 8 without paying, this is likely the best choice.

Note that Azul also offers $free OpenJDK release builds under the name Zulu. A key advantage of Azul's offering is that you can pay for support later if you need it without changing your JDK.

* The last two options assume that a group actually will step forward and take over the "JDK 8 updates" OpenJDK project once Oracle stop. While the exact project details are not yet confirmed, this IBM statement indicates real backing for the approach:

Recognizing the impact that the release cycle changes will have with Java developers, IBM will partner with other members of the OpenJDK community to continue to update an OpenJDK Java 8 stream with security patches and critical bug fixes. We intend to keep the current LTS version secure and high quality for 4 years. This timescale bridges the gap between LTS versions with 1 year to allow for a migration period. IBM has also invested in an open build and test project ( along with many partners and Java leaders to provide community binaries across commonly used platforms of OpenJDK with Hotspot and OpenJDK with Eclipse OpenJ9. These community binaries are TCK (Java SE specification) compliance tested and ready for developers to download and use in production.
IBM statement

And here is further indication of Red Hat's support for the June 2023 date, based on their "upstream first" policy.

> Red Hat has said it may step forward to be the maintainer for JDK 11 - might it also > step forward to be the maintainer for JDK 8?
> How long will JDK 8 be maintained?
June 2023 is right for JDK 8, but I wouldn't be surprised if it goes on beyond that.
Andrew Haley, Red Hat

And finally, here is the official Oracle view on that transition.

Note that the process around security issues will be managed by the newly formed vulnerability group (which formally codifies what was happening anyway).

Staying on Java 9 or Java 10


No-one wants to provide builds or support for Java 9 or Java 10. And anyway, there is no good reason not to upgrade to Java 11 in my opinion.

(Actually, Azul are providing medium-term support for Java 9, if you really need it.)

Staying on Java 11

It is a brave new world and not 100% clear, but this is how it looks like things will happen.

Firstly, it is not clear that there will be an Oracle JDK that is $free to download. Despite my best attempts, I could not get 100% clarity on this point. However, this tweet and other sources indicate that it will be accessible for development purposes, just not for use in production (which is a bit of a trap for the unwary). But in reality, it is now irrelevant as to whether Oracle JDK is $free to download or not.

Now that Java 11 is released, we can see that Oracle JDK can be downloaded for $free. However, the license has changed, explicitly ruling out use in a production environment (without paying). Given that Oracle JDK has been the main JDK in use for 23 years, this is a huge trap for the unwary.

But this is not actually a problem, because Oracle JDK is no longer that important. That is because from Java 11, developers can treat Oracle JDK and OpenJDK as being equivalent. (See here for the detailed differences.) It is no longer appropriate or correct to consider the OpenJDK build to be secondary or less important. In fact, the most important build is now the OpenJDK one.

To be more specific, as of the release date, Java 11 developers should consider using AdoptOpenJDK or to obtain a binary download, not any page on

So, for how long will Oracle provide security patches to Java 11?

Again, the answer to this is not 100% clear:

> What will Java 11 get from Oracle?
At least six months of free, GPL-licensed updates with binaries at
(I say “at least” because that’s the current plan. The plan could change, to a longer time period, if the situation warrants.)
Mark Reinhold, Oracle

Clearly, six months of security updates is not long enough to treat Java 11 as a "long term support" (LTS) release. The promise of the period being potentially longer doesn't really help, as companies need longer timelines and more certainty. So the working assumption should be that Java 11 has just 6 months of releases containing security patches from Oracle.

At this point, things move into the realms of probabilities. In all likelihood, when Oracle steps down from managing the "JDK 11 updates" project at OpenJDK (the one containing the security patches), someone else will take over. Exactly as with Java 8, discussed above. This has happened before with Java 6 and 7. And the evidence is that it will happen for Java 11 too:

OpenJDK is a community project. It's up to the community to support it. In practice this means that a group of organizations and individuals will maintain each OpenJDK LTS release for some period (TBA for 11, but it's sure to be a *lot* longer than six months.) I am certain that there will be a jdk11u project, and it will be properly and professionally run. I think it's likely that I'll be leading the project, but someone else may be chosen.
Andrew Haley, Red Hat

See also this Red Hat blog on the topic.

That covers the repository containing the security patches. (Red Hat have an excellent record in maintaining old releases of OpenJDK for the wider community.) But there is still the question of producing actual releases to download that have been certified as passing the Java SE testing TCK.

This is where the AdoptOpenJDK build farm is critical:

As part of the discussions Andrew mentioned, AdoptOpenJDK offered to build, test and make available OpenJDK LTS binaries for the major (and several minor) platforms. This isn't yet set in concrete but folks broadly thought that was a good idea. So the challenge of having a build and test farm for this joint effort is solved.
Martijn Verburg, AdoptOpenJDK

And AdoptOpenJDK are currently planning to do create releases until September 2022, one year after Java 17 comes out.

If people do what they say they will, then we can therefore conclude that it will be possible to use Java 11 for 4 years from release, with security patches, for $free (zero-cost). (I would imagine that if volunteers came forward, the September 2022 date could be moved even further into the future.)

Of course, only you and your company can decide if it is right and proper to use Java without giving back to the ecosystem. It could be argued that it is more ethical to either pay for support, or assist either the AdoptOpenJDK or "JDK 11 updates" OpenJDK project.

This is therefore the updated table of $free updates:

VersionRelease dateEnd of Oracle $free updatesEnd of OpenJDK-based $free updates
Java 8March 2014January 2019June 2023 (or later)
Java 9Sept 2017March 2018N/A
Java 10March 2018Sept 2018N/A
Java 11Sept 2018March 2019 (or later)September 2022 (or later)
Java 12March 2019Sept 2019N/A

(June 2023 is the date Red Hat has provided for the end of JDK 8 security patches, September 2022 is the date AdoptOpenJDK have provided - one year after the expected release of the next LTS (long-term support) version, Java 17).


The OpenJDK builds by Oracle at only cover three platforms. But this doesn't mean that they are the only platforms OpenJDK runs on. For example, AdoptOpenJDK provides Java 8 builds on 7 platforms with Hotspot (including ARM) and more platforms with OpenJ9 (including Windows 32 bit).


All the pieces are in place for Java 11 to be maintained as a long-term support release. However, unlike Java 6, 7 and 8, Oracle will not be leading the long-term support effort. In all likelihood, Red Hat will take over this task - they have said publicly that they would like to.

For the first 6 months of Java 11's life, Oracle will be providing GPL+CE licensed $free zero-cost downloads at with security patches.

To get GPL+CE licensed $free zero-cost update releases of Java 11 after the first six months, you are likely to need to obtain them from a different URL and a different build team. Currently, my view is that your package manager or the AdoptOpenJDK build farm is the best place to look for those builds.

Feel free to comment if I've missed something obvious.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Upgrading to Eclipse Photon

I use Eclipse as my Java IDE. And the new release, Photon is now out.

Photon is a large release, with lots of new features. The most important is the separation of the test and main classpaths, which has always been a point of pain in the IDE. Now it just works as you would expect, and the Maven plugin M2E correctly sets it up:

Note the darker colour of the src/test classpath elements.

Support for Java 9 (modules) and Java 10 (local variable type inferenece) is also present, ready for Java 11 in September. You can also use JUnit 5. It even tries to help you reach 100% code coverage!

All in all, I feel this is a release where upgrading will make a difference to everyday coding.

I've upgraded my own Eclipse installations, and it all went pretty well. You can either start from a clean install (I prefer the basic IDE without plugins so I can choose which ones to add). Or you can add Photon as an update site, and let Eclipse update itself.

One problem I had was the plugin that connects Maven (M2E) to Checkstyle (Eclipse-CS), known as m2e-code-quality. Fortunately, the team at GEBIT have been maintaining a fork of the original plugin. However, they don't release it in binary form. As such, I had to build the plugin locally (no big deal - its a simple build).

To simplify the process however, I've created a repository on GitHub with my Eclipse setup files, and a binary zip of the GEBIT forked plugin.

To use just the m2e-code-quality GEBIT fork, download the zip file and add it as an update site. Here are some instructions.

Thank you Eclipse team for a great release!

PS. I won't be answering "how to" questions about upgrading Eclipse or the eclipse-setup repository. There are plenty of other places to ask questions, such as Stack Overflow or the Eclipse Forums.