JCP talks open source at Toronto meeting

At its first ever meeting in Toronto, members of the governing body of the Java Community Process (JCP) had what it called a series of face-to-face meetings this week to discuss such things as the future of Java and the pace and complexity of development. Also on the agenda: examining ways that open source development in Java can continue without being inhibited by the JCP.

The JCP, which is an open organization that holds the responsibility for the development of Java, usually tries to dispel with the teleconferences and never-ending phone calls among executives and meets in person every three or four months.

Under a committee that will be established by executive committee member Geir Magnusson, vice-president, Apache Software Foundation, the JCP will seek to define questions around whether or not Java Specification Requests (JSRs) — which are the actual descriptions of proposed and final specifications for the Java platform that move through various review and approval processes — allows the use of open source licenses.

At a session with the media after two days of meetings at Research in Motion Ltd. in Mississauga, Onno Kluyt, director of the JCP Program Management Office, said the JCP doesn’t prescribe a specific business model, but said the executive committee asked Magnusson to spearhead a group to monitor the open source issue. He said it isn’t the first time that open source has been discussed at the executive level.

Magnusson said the committee is still in the preliminary stages, but will look at ensuring that the JCP is compatible with what the open source community does.

Executive committee members hail from Sun Microsystems Inc., the creator of Java, Borland Corp., Apache and Fujitsu., or the term the committee uses to outline the future direction of the JCP program, was a hot issue this week, according to Aaron Williams, manager, JCP PMO.

The group looks at what is next for the JCP, what changes can be made to the process and because the meeting follows the heels of the annual JavaOne conference, held this year in San Francisco, Williams said the meeting also touched on a post mortem of the event.

“It’s really a high-level view of what’s happening,” he said.

Every year there are around 40 JSRs submitted to the community process and it takes an average of 450 days for a request to become a specification, Williams said.

Within the development community, programmers and Java-enabled organizations have been asking for a long time if the pace of that process can be shortened and Williams said that period of time is being reduced.

Time to market is a big issue for organizations, and if it is taking longer to get specs approved then it will take more time for companies to get their goods out the door, so getting the JSR creation time as efficient as possible, but keeping it as a collaborative effort is on the radar for the executive committee, he added.

The JCP has also been trying to get the entire system moving faster, with the creation of JCP 2.6 — a new version of the JCP which hit the streets in April and is designed to make developing Java standards more efficient and more open to the public, Williams explained. The new version of the program will be more transparent and it encourages greater public involvement, and earlier public involvement of the procedures that define the Java specs.

“JSRs strike close to the heart of developers,” Kluyt explained. “Generally speaking, the more feedback, the better the spec will be.”

The group admitted that discussion at the executive level can be “strong” and Kluyt said that is because the issues they discuss really matter. “Most, if not all of us have competitors sitting at the same table and we each have our own business agendas and shareholders to answer to…but as a committee we manage to find a common area moving forward and still have that commonality,” he explained.

“Everybody gets together to make a bigger pie…outside the group, we try to figure out how to slice the pie or the market share,” Williams said.

The JCP has been in working order for about five and a half years, and the multi-vendors would like to see Java succeed, said Fujitsu director of industry relations Michael DeNicola, also an executive committee member.

DeNicola said that many of the JSRs do tend to fall dormant, and part of the 2.6 program will be to ensure the JSRs remain on the executive’s radar, and are still going strong.

There are 32 seats on the executive level and every year there are new elections to ensure there are fresh ideas permeating the group. Most seats have about a three-year commitment.

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