The future of Java

JAVA

Considering the recent changes related to Oracle’s licensing rules for Java SE, as explained in our previous articles, and especially the change in release frequency, many end users asked us about the future and popularity of Java. To answer this, first we did our research; then we formed our opinion.

What do others say?

To get an insight into the popularity of the programming language itself, we’ve looked at several surveys and popularity indexes. Most of them show Java as being stably at the top, without any clear indications that its trend was recently affected. We’ve listed some examples below.

TIOBE Index

The TIOBE programming community index is a measure of popularity of programming languages, created and maintained by the TIOBE Company based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. TIOBE stands for The Importance of Being Earnest and is calculated from the number of search engine results for queries containing the name of the language. The index covers searches in Google, Google Blogs, MSN, Yahoo!, Baidu, Wikipedia and YouTube and is updated once a month. The current information is free but the long term statistics over many years of observation is for sale. As per the TIOBE index, Java is currently still the most popular programming language.

Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow is a question and answer site for professional programmers. It is a privately held website and features questions and answers on a wide range of topics in computer programming. The website serves as a platform for users to ask and answer questions, and, through membership and active participation, to vote question, answers up or down and edit questions and answers in a fashion similar to a wiki or Digg. The  Stack Overflow Developer Survey Results 2018 also show Java among the Most Popular Technologies although superseded by some of the web development languages.

GitHub

GitHub is a web-based hosting service for version control using Git. Git is a distributed version-control system for tracking changes in source code during software development. GitHub provides access control and several collaboration features such as bug trackingfeature requeststask management, and wikis. Looking at the amount of code contributions from private and public repositories on GitHub, Java again ranked highly.

What is our view?

We believe that Stack Overflow and GitHub are not reflecting the use of Java within enterprise environments. The reality is much more favorable for Java than what Stack Overflow and GitHub can capture. Remember that these communities have much more of an open-source mind-frame while many enterprises want to keep their technologies closed for the sake of having a competitive advantage; additionally, our experience with enterprise environments shows that such organizations prefer stability. They keep using legacy systems for a long time even after the end of life for those systems.

What Stack Overflow and GitHub might be telling is that the adoption of other technologies is on a rise in open communities. This could mean a change in rankings in the distant future, but for now it’s too early to tell when such a change will become significant. In conclusion, the safest bet is to say that Java will be alive and well for a long time. It will continue to be popular, widespread and top of mind especially for enterprise solutions. The reference implementation of Java includes the reference open-source code for the Java Standard Edition software. This is the other thing that stays the same – the reference implementation remains available for anyone who wants to make their own builds out of it. Because of this, end users continue to have the option to make builds or choose from a variety of publishers who are making builds and then offering support and patches for their own builds.

So what will change?

Right now, there is a spike in the activity of other publishers who are making builds and then offering support and patches for those builds. Because of the 6 months release cadence, Oracle has to focus their development efforts on new Java versions to keep up with this cadence. This opens opportunities for other build providers. The way they’re taking the opportunity is by offering to support old versions (such as 7) that Oracle doesn’t want to focus on anymore, by extending their support services for the latest builds etc. Some of these build providers offer their solution for free while others offer paid services.

This entire dynamic is described in detail in a Google document signed by leaders and experts from the Java community. The spike in the activity of these other publishers is creating competition over the supply of Java related support services. It’s very likely that this type of competition will give a boost to the Java programming language.

So, let’s zoom in on the implications for the SAM industry. It’s becoming clearer for commercial organizations that there’s a cost associated with Java and that there are restrictions related to what you can do with it. Java platform software is shifting from being seen as “freeware” and taken for granted to being regarded as a technology that requires careful consideration before investing in it. Because of this, Java will get a more central position on the radar of CIOs and software asset managers who will be looking at reducing the cost, limiting the risk generated by licensing restrictions and maximizing the value (in terms of support and reliability) they get for their investment.

For these stakeholders to reduce costs and limit risks they will need insight into their organization’s current Java deployment and compliance status.

One party they will turn to is SAM tool publishers such as Flexera, Aspera, Snow etc. Currently SAM tools aren’t accurate enough to make a clear distinction between the different Java builds and furthermore they yet cannot roll-up the results to show an accurate effective licensing position for Java SE. However, the recent trends will force them to step up their game to match the increased demand for decoding the Java complexity.

Need help?

Feel free to reach out to us if your organization needs help to decode this complexity. In case you’re already using a SAM tool, our reports can also provide you with the right requirements that you can forward to your SAM tool publisher.