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The JCP and the OpenJDK Community

The JCP and the OpenJDK Community

At the JavaOne conference earlier in May, Sun launched the OpenJDK project (http://openjdk.java.net). The OpenJDK project is Sun's Java SE implementation under the GPL license. While portions of the project, such as the compiler and Hotspot, were released at an earlier time, at the JavaOne conference all the class libraries and other source code that together making up JDK7 were launched. At the same time, Sun also announced an interim Governance Board for OpenJDK. This board is comprised of two people from Sun and three from the community. Mark Reinhold (chief engineer for Java SE) and Simon Phipps (Sun's Chief Open Source Officer) both from Sun, and Dalibor Topic (of GNU Classpath and Kaffe.org fame), Doug Lea (professor at SUNY), and Fabiane Nardon (CTO of VIDATIS and JavaTools community manager) have graciously accepted invitations to serve on the interim board. The key task before them is to write a constitution for the OpenJDK community, have it ratified by the membership, and then put their seats up for re-election.

An oft-asked question during the conference was about any relationship between this Governance Board and the JCP Executive Committees and also between projects at OpenJDK and the JCP's JSRs. It occurred to me that others, in addition to the conference attendees, would have these questions and so I would like to demystify this here.

The role of the JCP was and is for the industry to develop and agree upon Java specifications. The OpenJDK project is Sun's open source project for their implementation of the Java SE and related specifications as they are produced by the JCP. The JCP Executive Committee (EC) votes to approve proposals for standardization. The OpenJDK Governance Board is the body of ultimate resolution for OpenJDK and the maintainer of the OpenJDK Constitution.

The OpenJDK Constitution will describe how the OpenJDK community makes decisions, who is considered a member, how projects are started, how contributions are made, and how these are accepted. In short, it will describe how the OpenJDK community operates. The (interim) Governance Board does not make technical decisions. That is done by the projects and groups in the OpenJDK community. The Governance Board does not decide on Java specifications. The JSR expert groups in the JCP work to define the draft and final Java specifications. The JCP Executive Committee then votes to formally approve these specifications.

The JCP's Executive Committees are intended to have broad industry and geographical representation. The EC members formal voting on JSR proposals thus lends industry credibility to the standardization efforts of the Java community. The OpenJDK community is a meritocracy in which developers collaborate with Sun engineers on the development of the JDK. As new participants in this community gain experience and reputation, their responsibilities and abilities will also increase, for example, taking up the role of committer or as project lead for a particular port of the JDK code base. I would expect that this rise in fame and responsibility may then also lead such individuals to be elected by the membership to the Governance Board.

While the OpenJDK Governance Board and the JCP Executive Committees have very distinct, and non-overlapping, roles I do expect there to be practical interaction and collaboration between the two communities. For example, I expect that most Java SE Spec Leads (i.e., leaders of JSRs that feed into SE or JDK releases) to be project leaders and code committers in the OpenJDK community, and probably a similar overlap between many key expert group members in the JCP and code contributors to the OpenJDK community. I also expect that the openness and transparency of the JDK source code under the GPL license will lead developers to provide feedback on the (draft) specifications that the code is based on, which will have a positive quality and progress impact on the JSRs in the JCP.

The interim Governance Board is just starting to draft the Constitution, and rough estimates are it will take 6-9 months to complete the effort and have the document ratified. In the meantime the OpenJDK community is open for business. Sun has established a set of guidelines for the community on how to start projects and make contributions while the interim board does its work. You can find links to the work of the board, these guidelines, and the OpenJDK Charter on the OpenJDK Web site at http://openjdk.java.net.

More Stories By Onno Kluyt

Onno Kluyt is the chairperson of the JCP Program Management Office, Sun Microsystems.

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