Much Ado About Java

Much Ado About Java

Oracle announced changes to Java’s license terms in mid-2018. Since then, SoftwareONE has advised over 150 companies regarding Java in the US alone. IT and procurement personnel commonly ask how other companies are responding to Oracle’s changes to Java. While knowing how other companies are reacting is important, the more pressing information is knowing what Oracle is doing.

Some Background on Oracle (Java’s Owner)

As a reminder, Oracle posts its software online, available to install and use at any volume without license keys and no immediate indication of cost. Specific to its open-source products, Oracle’s sales strategy is to build financial leverage based on download activity of commercial features and then follow up via telemarketing. While Oracle does not conduct formal LMS audits for open-source products—including Java—the resulting sales pressure often ends up feeling like a contentious shortfall.

In addition, Oracle’s policies inflate license requirements. For example, consider five VirtualBox users, dispersed globally, having downloaded dozens of dot releases of the Ext. Pack over many years. Perhaps beginning at thousands of users, final “negotiations” will result in a 500-user license requirement, i.e., $25,000 versus a straight-forward $250 given a unit list of $50 per user. In the case of Java on data center servers, Oracle’s infamous “galaxy licensing” policy applies whereby every host in a virtualized farm must be subscribed.

Java is Especially Tricky

The challenging dynamic with Java is its ubiquity and difficulty to measure as a licensable software asset. Java has been a top development and execution platform for decades and is used by thousands of publishers to distribute software. A growing number of these publishers are certifying on Open JDK and/or paying royalties to Oracle to distribute updates, which absorbs the subscription cost via third-party bundling.

Bear in mind 2018 was not Oracle’s first attempt to charge for Java. Less than 1% of customers ever paid Oracle despite the fine print around older patches and commercial features. While more customers are subscribing now, the change in terms has actually opened up the third-party support market for OpenJDK by providers such as Azul.

How Customers are Responding to Java Changes

We asked attendees in a recent webinar how they are responding to the changes in Java’s licensing terms, and the results showed that:

  • 25% have subscribed with Oracle
  • 25% have engaged third-party support for OpenJDK
  • 50% have done nothing

These results skew towards Oracle when the aforementioned 150+ customer conversations are considered, i.e., most customers are doing nothing. This wait-and-see category is a bit misleading since most companies—perhaps unbeknownst to them—have licensable installations of Java they are not paying for. Unfortunately, those doing nothing include companies that have overshared with an Oracle salesperson and sit on a bloated quote.

SoftwareONE’s Recommendation

SoftwareONE’s recommendations are commensurate to the permissive nature of Oracle software distribution:

  • Remove Java from base imaging, disable the auto-updater and block
  • Centrally-stage and apply updates based on quantifiable business requirements
  • Assess usage and create an optimized subscription that considers OpenJDK support from Azul
  • Implement vendor management that funnels Oracle sales and marketing to an educated buyer

While the vast majority of customers want to be compliant, they are unaware of the ambiguity (i.e., guesswork) involved in subscribing for the right amount. The best path forward is to take the necessary time to assess the value of Java in your environment and engage Oracle if/when the requirement is clear. If Oracle cared so much about compliance, it would put Java behind a paid firewall, require license keys, and otherwise restrict its IP to paying customers.

Break Free From Oracle’s Grasp

If you’re like many other companies who feel tied up in Oracle’s antequated business practices, let us help you understand your licensing options. Join our webinar on June 11th from 2:00-3:00 PM EDT to learn more about optimizing Oracle-related costs and take control of your spending.

Register Today

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Eric Guyer

Enterprise Software, Hardware and Services

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