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Communication and Openness Rule the Java Community Process (JCP) Program

Communication and Openness Rule the Java Community ProcessSM (JCPTM) Program

by Susan Mitchell

April 2, 2002 -- JCPSM Program members have plenty to celebrate, and celebrate they did at their posh annual members-only dinner held at the Argent Hotel in San Francisco, near the JavaOneSM conference's Moscone hub. In a 25% attendance upsurge from last year, over 150 JavaTM technology architects and developers arrived primed to hear good news from the Program Management Office (PMO) and a panel of elected Executive Committee (EC) members.

Onno Kluyt, manager of the JCP PMO, didn't disappoint. He kicked off the event by displaying the JCP's recent award from Java Pro Magazine for "Outstanding Contribution to the Java Onno Kluyt Community by a Group." JCP members are proud of their efforts to give back to the Java community. One member reflected their sentiments when he commented to the assembled EC panel, "all innovation and evolution of Java technology takes place here."

However, the main source of excitement was a Java Specification Request (JSR) that has been in the works for nearly two years. Just over a month from public review, JSR 99: Java Specification Participation Agreement (JSPA) now promises to grant unprecedented access to Java technology.

Executive Committee Makes Participation More Open and Affordable

Rob Gingell, JCP Chair and Vice President at Sun Microsystems, Rob Gingell described the development of the spec through the combined Executive Committee and into community review. Although YES votes passed it at that point, the EC observed that the NO votes referred to a list of issues on the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) website. Even the YES votes echoed those concerns and suggested they be addressed. ASF's ability to continue participating in the JCP "was in jeopardy," said Gingell, and the EC has spent the last few weeks working "at a fevered pitch" to understand, respond to, and satisfy the needs.

The JSPA is the contract that organizations agree to when they want to join the JCP. It spells out the terms for licensing, intellectual property (IP) issues, and so forth. Through JSR 99 and under pressure from Apache, the JSPA is being reworked to improve the close relationship between the JCP and the open source community. Sun has proposed significant enhancements that expands the ability to create open source implementations, provides no-cost access to Technology Compatibility Kits (TCKs) for qualified non-profits, and establishes a Sun-funded scholarship program for those who can't afford access to Sun's TCK support services.

The result makes participation more open and affordable. JSR 99 allows for independent implementations of all JSRs, separate licensing of Reference Implementations (RIs) and TCKs, and Open Source license models for compatible independent implementations. Sun no longer automatically shares the IP license; instead the spec lead company becomes its sole owner. The EC is still considering granting no-cost access to TCKs for non-profit efforts. If all goes well, JSR 99 should be final around August 2002.

The new rules will apply immediately to all JSRs starting after JSR 99 goes final. Sun has also pledged to apply the terms of the new JSPA retroactively for several key JSRs. Kluyt promised the PMO would call up all JSR spec leads to encourage moving to the new agreement. He suggested retaining a lawyer to check over the legal aspects of such a move.

JSR 171: JCP 2.5 implements the changes required by JSR 99, with the combined EC again serving as the expert group. These changes are "a substantial increment to the previous version," and they offer members new rights and responsibilities, said Don Deutsch of Oracle. "I can't say we got all the way there, but the majority of us agree that it is a positive increment," he added.

ASF is not the only group that can't afford the stiff fees assessed by Sun. Sun licenses are too high for many open source groups said Aaron Mulder, CTO of Chariot Solutions, LLC. It's easier and cheaper to create independent implementations than to license them from Sun. Uncoupling RI and TCK licenses makes it more likely that small-timers can afford one if not both.

One active participant, Gregg Orangio, vice president of New Atlanta Communications, appreciates the changes proposed in JSR 99, but he had to ask the EC panel what others just wondered about. If non-profits are supported financially, what about small for-profit companies who can't afford certification? Under JCP 2.5, all for-profits are liable for fees regardless of their size, but Gingell suggested approaching spec leaders directly to see if they would arrange special pricing.

Communication is Critical

What makes the JCP work so well? "This is a robust process because of the diversity" among members, said Gingell. The geographic diversity among spec leads indicates the extent to which the JCP effort is an international collaboration. 112 spec leads are from the USA, eight from UK, six from Germany, four from India, and three or fewer come from each of the countries of Canada, Finland, France, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland. All of this makes communication all the more vital and challenging.

The entire JCP approach rests on the notion that feedback is critical to improving processes. This conviction carries through everything the JCP does. It is most clearly seen in the way expert groups conduct their business and in the numerous required review cycles each specification must undergo.

The PMO thrives on input and continues to solicit comments through the alias. By holding three spec lead training sessions in US and Europe, the PMO gained excellent feedback and is improving the process to implement the suggestions.

Even the member dinner itself allotted time for the audience to address the assembled EC panel directly.Executive Committee Among other topics that were brought up, the EC seemed willing to consider that the Java 2 Micro EditionTM (J2METM)/Java 2 Standard EditionTM (J2SETM) division of the Executive Committee is becoming increasingly unnecessary, that simple thumbs-up/thumbs-down EC voting may need to give way to a system with more dialogue, and that the JCP may need to come up with ways to effectively market the tools and opportunities it offers. Any member can always contact EC members individually or through the PMO. "Your voice is largely through the EC. We love your input because we see ourselves as your representatives," said Don Deutsch.

Members were urged to take the matter of EC representation seriously by offering another kind of input in nominating new candidates and voting in the upcoming EC election. Five rotating seats come up for election every October.

All in all, members are pleased with the direction JCP is taking. One member, Aaron Mulder, put this general feeling into words: "It is fantastic that so many are able to influence the growth of Java technology. There is good growth in lots of directions, especially in Sun's acceptance of open source."


ASF Position Statement

JCP Response to ASF


JSR 171: JCP 2.5