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2017
Mark Little

Why we voted NO on JSR 376

Posted by Mark Little May 11, 2017

Now that the vote has passed and the EC face-to-face meeting in Austin on May 8th and 9th has also concluded, I wanted to write down a little about why we voted NO on JSR 376. Scott has already posted an article on the concerns from Red Hat Middleware teams and other members of the Expert Groups and wider Java community (note that at least 50% of the EG contributed to the document - it is NOT just from Red Hat). This has never been about Java EE versus Jigsaw as some might think; it has always been about the benefits for the wider Java communities and making Java 9 a success: Red Hat, and JBoss before it, has invested a lot in the Java ecosystem over the years and our input on JSR 376 has always been because we want Java and the JVM to continue to thrive; we understand it needs to evolve and sometimes that might mean breaking backwards compatibility. However, there's a huge JVM community out there which has developed over two decades and we have to be cognisant that we need to bring as many of them with us when we do release Java 9 rather than risk driving them to other newer languages. And unfortunately the majority of those community members don't participate in JSR Expert Groups so their feedback, both positive and negative, often comes after the fact. With something as invasive as Jigsaw, where reversing it out of the JVM if it was to break too much is probably impossible to do, it is therefore imperative that the representatives on the EG are confident as much has been done as possible to make moving to Java 9 as easy and natural as possible.

 

It’s a very complex situation we found ourselves in and I’ve spent months listening to the arguments from all sides, not least of which are our own OpenJDK and middleware teams. I flip-flopped between an abstain vote and a no vote, trying to remain objective on the outcome. On the whole, what swayed me to vote no was not the arguments for why WildFly or any specific module system, such as OSGi, might not work well on Jigsaw: those were important concerns but so were some counter arguments from our OpenJDK team. What did it for me was the belief that Jigsaw as it currently stands still needs modifications: in a world as polyglot as we find ourselves in today, the general lack of consensus in the EG and beyond makes it important we stop and consider the potential impact as I mentioned above; if there are smaller changes which could be made which would mitigate the issues we and others have raised in the wider Java community than just the EG, then I think it’s worth spending a bit more time doing so.

 

None of us have a time machine to see what will happen or predict the future. I believe I remained objective and I believe I made the right decision. However, I want to make it clear that whilst the Red Hat OpenJDK team, the WildFly team, Hibernate, Drools and many other groups gave input for and against Jigsaw, the buck stops with me: I made the decision and whether anyone believes it is right or wrong, I stand by it. At this stage we all need to come together and work together to make Java 9 a success.

 

I want to finish by returning to the idea of who was concerned about Jigsaw. Whilst the focus seems to only fall upon Red Hat and IBM having concerns, the document Scott posted has wider representation that that. Other discussions around Jigsaw, such as on InfoQ and social media, are full of similar concerns from individuals and other companies than just ourselves. I can't speak for IBM but I can say that this is not a vote we wanted to take in the way we did and it's certainly not a vote we entered into lightly. Whatever the outcome of the vote I hope that the Jigsaw EG, the OpenJDK teams and Red Hat can move forward positively to continue to ensure Java and the JVM are relevant to a wide range of enterprises. That's certainly our intent and we won't be putting roadblocks in the way of collaboration; if everyone can take what has been said and done on all sides to date from the perspective of assuming positive intent then I'm sure we can make this work!

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