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Is There A Place For a Premium JVM?

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During the weekend I read Stephen Colebourne's post thoughts on Oracle's planned premium JVM. The story began when Oracle's vice president of development, Adam Messinger mentioned that Oracle would be providing a premium JVM alongside the open source VM. During earlier announcements from Oracle, we knew that HotSpot and JRockit would be merged. This is still true for the open version, as well as the premium version. 

According to Stephen's research, it looks like this is just Oracle following on with their current JRockit strategy which charges users for VM extensions such as JRockit Real Time and JRockit Mission Control.

This Oracle press release from September 2010 indicates the underlying situation - that "premium" simply refers to a continuation of the JRockit paid for elements. I still hope that more detailed information can be provided.

Oracle is currently working to merge the Oracle Java HotSpot Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and the Oracle JRockit JVM into a converged offering that leverages the best features of each of these market-leading implementations. Oracle plans to contribute the results of the combined Oracle Java HotSpot and Oracle JRockit JVMs to the OpenJDK project. The Oracle JDK and Java Runtime Environment (JRE) will continue to be available as free downloads, with no changes to the existing licensing models. Premium offerings such as JRockit Mission Control, JRockit Real Time, Java for Business and Enterprise Support will continue to be made available for an additional charge.

As owners of the technology, it's fair that Oracle should expect to provide a premium offering to their customers. Once this doesn't cause any fragmentation, once the APIs and features remain the same, this is fine. Users who pay more may get an optimized VM, perhaps with some extra management features. 

What do you think? Does the thought of a premium JVM make you nervous?



Osvaldo Doederlein replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 9:06am

When Sun introruced HotSpot, they originally planned to charge for it. In the end they decided to give HotSpot away, but that was probably a difficult decision internally at Sun. And it was one of the best things Sun ever did for Java; the boom of Java & J2EE in 199-2000 might not have happened without a gratis, high-performance JVM. (At that time there were alternative high-performance JVMs, but all of them commercial or somehow encumbered - IBM JDK, TowerJ and others.)

It's fine to charge for extraordinary stuff like Mission Control, RT, or bare-metal VM that runs on hypervisor. Or premium support of course, like Sun did for a long time (JavaSE for Business). But charging for extra optimizations would be a disaster. People would immediately flock to competitors that offer their state-of-the-art compiler/VM runtime - from IBM (in WebSphere) to Microsoft (with .NET) - without extra charge. Even if they don't really need that extra ounce of performance that must be paid; it's a strategic issue, and people would immediately think "today Oracle charges for top optimizations; next year they will charge for common bugfixes; later on, even for security patches" and this kind of FUD might destroy Java.

Thomas Mueller replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 10:57am

If the general perception is that Oracle wants to quickly monetize the JVM, people would immediately try to search for an alternative. An alternative for the Oracle JVM, or, much worse, an alternative for the Java platform. Charging for extra (HotSpot-style) optimizations would probably be the tipping point. The good thing is that there *are* alternatives.

Jim Bethancourt replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 11:02am

It will be interesting to see how Oracle's premium JVM and Azul System's newly released Zing Platform compete with one another. It looks like Zing offers similar management features, plus additional performance enhancements.

Marcos Antonio replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 11:05am in response to: Osvaldo Doederlein

Well said, Osvaldo. That's what will happen.

Charles (Ted) Wise replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 11:35am

I've dealt with Oracle for many, many years before they bought Sun. With the exception of their namesake database, which is excellent, their products are mediocre and overpriced.

I've worked with their sales staff, I've worked with former members of their sales staff and the products don't mean anything at all. They could be selling widgets or shampoo. They pad on half-baked features, provide lukewarm support and release buggy software as a matter of course. They're looking for iterative cycles to drive sales, keep customers on board and keep selling support contracts.

I hoped that somehow the open source underpinnings of Java would survive that attitude. But it's not. They've lost all of the heavy hitters from Sun, they've actively worked to disenfranchise the community and they're only just beginning.

They just removed InnoDB from the cheapest supported version of MySQL in an attempt to further monetize that market or drive customers upscale to more lucrative Oracle licenses.

Congratulations Oracle, you've managed to break through my complacency and seriously scare me about the future of Java. If it's going to end up as 20k/year support contracts, opening TARs for production failures and locking up docs behind pay walls, then so long and thanks for all the fish.

It's on you to prove me wrong. You've got about six months of leeway before OpenJDK needs to show what the future of Java will look like. I hope I'm pleasantly surprised.

Attila Király replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 2:08pm

It seems to me that Oracle is eager to correct the "open source fiasco" of Sun. I would not be surprised if they would simply rename OpenJDK to "Oracle 11g VM Express" and the premium to "Oracle 11g VM Enterprise" in the future (and the lesser one would be at least 800 MB big).

I agree with Stephen Colebourne on this:
"My concern is that once you have the split, there will be a product manager for the premium version. Their bottom line and job success will depend on moving people from gratis to paid. They will therefore lobby against adding to the gratis version and rachet up the cost of the paid version."

However I am not sure if they can hide the optimization/bug fix/enhancement codes in the premium edition. The OpenJDK is GPL licensed and the premium edition is based on the OpenJDK so it must be GPL licensed too. Which means if someone buys the premium edition she can ask for the code and release it for free (like Red Hat Enterprise Linux is paid sotware but if someone recompiles the source, like CentOS it can be released for no cost).

On the other hand maybe I am wrong about it and Oracle will add a lot of good stuff from JRockit to OpenJDK and it will be even better (and only management tool stuff will be the extra in the premium edition). But I am a bit pessimistic about it.

Mark Haniford replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 3:15pm in response to: Attila Király

However I am not sure if they can hide the optimization/bug fix/enhancement codes in the premium edition. The OpenJDK is GPL licensed and the premium edition is based on the OpenJDK so it must be GPL licensed too. Which means if someone buys the premium edition she can ask for the code and release it for free (like Red Hat Enterprise Linux is paid sotware but if someone recompiles the source, like CentOS it can be released for no cost).
Oracle owns the copyright to the JDK. They can relicense to anything they want.

Otengi Miloskov replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 3:54pm in response to: Mark Haniford

to Mark Haniford agree +1, To Osvaldo agree +1. Just for the record this is the same comment I let in dzone: Java a spec?, You are free to create your own??, What happen to Apache Harmony that they could not get a TCK and lately Google got sued cause using a subset of Harmony. Nah Java is not a standard ISO spec and Java is not free of patents and copyrights. Java is Oracle proprietary that right now happen to have a GPL license but that Oracle could change it everything soon. Oracle have a huge marketing and sales department that they will try to get you to the premium edition and after few years let in the dust the free one cause already the big companies that need supports to conform their management department will prefer the premium and Oracle will be so happy and enough with just that and let die the Java community and Java opensource. Me I see this very very bad situation for Java as a Java developer. For management people this is the same thing cause anyway they have to pay for support.

Otengi Miloskov replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 4:04pm

Maybe now is time to try new things, Microsoft opensourced F# with apache lincese, Its an awesome language, or even the C# that C# language spec is true spec is an ISO maybe I will give a try it on Mono or even MS CLR that is free. If Microsoft wanted to charge for premium services for their VM they could do it long time ago but they didnt cause it is of course have to give away the VM runtime for free so people can use it on their platform.

Jonathan Fisher replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 5:08pm

Apache Harmony FTW. With Google and Apache behind it; it will likely run faster and in more places.

RIchard replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 9:38pm

I'm not gonna ^C the whole "Oracle doesn't get it" schpeel. This is, clearly an attempt to start charging for commercial use of the JVM... which might have yielded short term revenue in 97 but that ship sailed over a decade ago. Frankly, I'm at a loss for words. Crippling the VM at a time when open source competition is heating up and even the closed source implementations are not releasing crippled VMs is just denial of the reality of what they bought with Java. Any technology, is worthless if it's not popular. Is it crippling to not include enhancements? well no, but it is if you withhold performance updates that keeps the language relevant. I assure you of two things. 1. There will be an open initiative to improve Java, beyond the existing hotspot and those enhancements will be rejected by Oracle 2. After the community has had enough and initiates the inevitable fork, patent lawyers will get increasingly involved in Java's development. in an attempt to maintain control over it's evolution/inhibiting it's free progress through FUD. Dammit... I named my dog Java :( See kids, this is why dogma is a bad thing.

Manjuka Soysa replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 9:39pm

Since they bought BEA, aren't they already selling JRockit?

Andries Spies replied on Tue, 2010/11/09 - 12:56am

For the last 8 months or so I've been busy doing C/C++ development. Not to bad, mis the fast javac compiler (but really good GCC compiler error messages sort of helps a lot), and great IDEs. At least there is no Oracle specter hanging around to kill the C/C++ community.

Otengi Miloskov replied on Tue, 2010/11/09 - 2:00am in response to: Andries Spies

"At least there is no Oracle specter hanging around to kill the C/C++ community." Hehe thats right C++ it is an open-standard so no Oracle or Microsoft or any BS of company can kill it. Right now Im in the beginning of a project with C++, I will be using CppCMS as a web framework, also coding some web-services and Qt for the UI client side. C++ ide's are lots and good around, VC++ on Windows, xcode on mac and kdevelop on linux, Also Im checking PHP for web development and Python are a good option, ActiveState Komodo for PHP and Python IDE. Java rocks but Oracle ruined it.

Fabrizio Giudici replied on Tue, 2010/11/09 - 3:48am

Frankly I don't understand why people can't just see that the market has two legs: the "community" and "the rest of the world". The community is the smaller part. For what I can see, Oracle is going to keep a free, FLOSS OpenJDK for the "community" and a premium, paid version of "the rest of the world". While I don't have any experience of the "buggy" software Oracle sells and how professional are Oracle's salesmen, I see that Oracle sells a lot. So I assume It's not so strange that they could sell the premium edition without problems (probably, with its cost embedded in a global offering of a vertical stack).

In the end, they could be able to do what Sun always failed to do, that is directly monetize from Java. If Sun had been able to do, they would be still alive and kicking.

RIchard replied on Tue, 2010/11/09 - 3:54am in response to: Fabrizio Giudici

"Frankly I don't understand why people can't just see ... " Hmm, maybe you're just smarter than everyone else?

RIchard replied on Tue, 2010/11/09 - 4:21am in response to: Otengi Miloskov

Java the language rocks, java the VM has lag... it's at least 4 years behind other evil empire VMs which shall remain .Nameless Anywho, if one wanted to, they could make a java-esque language which has all of the good parts, and none of the bad. i.e. one set of input/output streams, more utility less new(), more less less more... It's just a matter of time, QT is looking good (GTK+ has looked better, but still good, and the only offering that looks native on all platforms), C++ & Boost are both looking good, LLVM is looking great ... most notably, V8 + Node is looking like a solid contender. Everything is there, just waiting for that spark. Can't you just hear the flint being stuck in the night.

Otengi Miloskov replied on Tue, 2010/11/09 - 10:54am in response to: Fabrizio Giudici

"In the end, they could be able to do what Sun always failed to do, that is directly monetize from Java." That one could be valid 10 years ago, 10 years ago ok everybody would be agreed to pay for a premium price, Java was still rising but now after 10 years that already there is a huge Java community(Java Developers) stablished using OpenSource stacks as the Apache, SpringSource or RedHat/Jboss, I think the huge world is the Java community and the Java opensource and the tiny is the everything else with the failing techs as the J2EE and JavaFX that SUN and IBM marketed and now Oracle inherited. Fabrizio ,I respect you and I recognize you as a Java guru but this comment of yours you totally wrong. The Java community is huge and if Oracle fail to respect this movement, Java and Oracle will fail. By the way Oracle database is a good product but all the rest of their products are mediocre. So what you see what are they selling good is their flagship product "the database", Oracle is a database company, they dont know how to manage to create another kind of software, they just buy what is for sale so to try to keep competitive. Right now how they manage Java is a disaster.

Otengi Miloskov replied on Tue, 2010/11/09 - 3:48pm

The only solution is the Apache Harmony project to replace and fork OpenJDK as a platform of choice for Java development and ask to IBM to protect the Apache Software Foundation with their massive patent stock as they did with Linux against SCO. Apache Harmony could be the solution to a free Java like platform. Google, IBM, SAP and everybody could win with this and let Oracle in the dust with their Java premium overpriced crap.

RIchard replied on Tue, 2010/11/09 - 4:12pm in response to: Otengi Miloskov

you missed the announcement? IBM just agreed to "lessen" it's commitment to Apache in a deal with Oracle. Yeah... Harmony is not a very uhh "good" implementation anyway. It may be Apache 2.0, but it's slow and buggy (as of the last time I read the benchmarks, Spring of 09 I believe)

Otengi Miloskov replied on Tue, 2010/11/09 - 6:26pm in response to: RIchard

hmm so I dont have a clue for a solution for Java hehe better I do C++ and forget all the deal with proprietary platforms.

Karl Peterbauer replied on Wed, 2010/11/10 - 4:17am in response to: Fabrizio Giudici

@Fabrizio: Your picture of a small, hippie-like "community" demanding a free version and a large "rest of the world" which is happily paying for a premium version is utter nonsense. The majority of the "community" is a huge army of software shops, corporate IT departments and professional freelancers who have been attracted by the then competitive openess of the Java platform, including the economic advantage of a free runtime environment and a wealth of free libraries. They are sitting on a vast codebase to be maintained for the next years and fear nothing more than a single nightmare: vendor lock-in followed by the inevitable rip-off. Oracle has to walk the talk soon and more persuasive to mitigate this fear. Said press release is harmless but to little. Fortunately they did not (yet) use your wording of "directly monetizing from Java", since this would cause a stampede immediately.

Igor Laera replied on Wed, 2010/11/10 - 6:58am


Oracle knew, that their lovely high priced monstrum runs 80% or something on Solaris, driven by a Java app. A huge amount of people had Sun servers. They wanted the stack, and they wanted it now. In conjunction with MySQL they got everything. The plan worked.

I think many people use too much anti-Oracle, anti-capitalistic 'reasoning'. But lets stick to the facts: who paid for JRockit in the past? There must be companies who did. I don't know even one. If Oracle joins JVM and JRockit, and leaves out the parts that make JRockit "so good they can charge for it", what does the JVM lose? Nothing.

It might gain in performance and quality in areas they can't monetize, since they don't need to handle two codebases. Currently everybody is hitting on Oracle, but besides raising the money for MySQL support (which was an expected move) and acting more like a classical US company (and less than a hang-out place), I can't see the big darkness everybody is picturing. 

Sun on the other hand, did a classical 'Microsoft': selling something, so they can crossfinance something else.Oracle wants you to buy their database, their servers. It would be a stupid move to put everything behind a $1000/CPU wall. The JVM (and the OS) drives the sales of the rest, which will easily bring in 10, 20x of that. But they don't want crossfinancing, they want the thing to be self sustainable. Simple basic business.

I don't like Oracle myself, but demonizing and painting black horizonts never provided any reasonable solutions. I doubt that 5% of those who currently cry foul will really start writing business software in PHP or C#. It will not happen, since most professionals don't deal with the business side of the environment they work in.

Otengi Miloskov replied on Wed, 2010/11/10 - 6:22pm in response to: Igor Laera

Who cares jrockit, RT and MC few companies use that. With Hotspot is enough, We just want that Oracle continue the OpenJDK spec with the same as with sun everything keep the same and continue open Java/JVM spec with the JCP so Apache does not leave and Java does not become a disaster. As I said and I agree with above comments the huge Java world is the army of Java developers that is the Java community, The Java community with Java Opensource made what is Java right now. Without Apache(Tomcat, Struts, Wicket etc), SpringSource(Spring framework), JBoss/RedHay(JBoss app server, Seam, Hibernate etc), Eclipse Foundation and Netbeans Java would be dead since 2001 with the EJB2 and Applets fiasco as it was with JavaFX. Java needs the community and the opensource!!!. If Apache leaves, it will be the start of the end of a popular and huge Java, Java will become a tiny proprietary cobol of the 21th century. "Tiny" because Cobol it was an open spec and huge in its time many many years.

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