Executive Briefing: Java's Changing License

Updated: Sep 3, 2020


Java historically has been free. Oracle would post Public Updates to their implementation, called Java SE, for typically three years, giving users enough time to plan for the next major release. At the end of Public Updates, the company would turn it over to the Open Source community, and they would support it. This arrangement has been in place for many years, although in 2011 the company added commercial features which required a license (Java SE Advanced, Desktop and Suite.)

What is Changing

Oracle has moved to a 6-month release schedule. Java 9 was released in 2017, Java 10 and 11 in 2018. To stay on Free Java or Java SE, you need to keep up with this schedule. Most enterprises cannot.

Also, in January of 2019, Oracle will no longer offer Public Updates to Java 8. If you are using Free Java SE, chances are you’re on Java SE 8 and may still need access to the updates to ensure for security and stability. This is major concern for many users.

Equally important, Oracle recently created a Java-specific License Management Team tasked with auditing customers.

if you are using Java SE 8, you have 3 options:

  1. Stay current with Oracle's 6-month release cadence - not a good option for most enterprises.

  2. Rely on the Open Source community - not a good option for most enterprises.

  3. Buy a subscription from Oracle, but be aware that new subscription pricing is very expensive over time. Oracle claims that a subscription is more flexible because you can cancel it at any time, but a stand-alone Java license could be cancelled too, though it is unclear whether licenses will continue to be available after January.

What's the right move for you?

There are several questions to answer to determine your best option, starting with how you are using Java. Internally, do you develop Java applications? If so, can you keep up with the 6-month cadence? Do you distribute with the Microsoft installer? Do you use Analytics or other commercial features? Can you count all the servers and desktops running Java? (Remember there’s a Java audit team now.)

Externally, do you develop and sell software, and therefore distribute Java externally? Do you build devices with Java in them, then sell the devices (kiosks, smartphones). All these things require embedded licenses and distribution agreements.

Other things that lead to noncompliance findings

The main areas of risk, which Oracle is checking for, include:

  1. The inadvertent download. This happens when developers who have access to Oracle support checks out Java updates and new features, makes the mistake of thinking they’re free, and downloads whatever they like.

  2. Proprietary hosting. For example, you build an internal HR application or financial transaction system then decide to offer it to customers without first signing a Proprietary Hosting Agreement with Oracle.

  3. Shock events that trigger audits. Triggers includes mergers and acquisition activity, change in management or company ownership, exit of a ULA, or just no purchases in a while.

The upshot

Java customers are urged to prepare now because January – about 70 days away – marks the end of the Public Support for Java 8. Also, there’s the new release schedule to consider. Java’s year-end is in May, which means increased sales activity. We encourage you to ask the tough question surrounding Java use and licensing ramifications in your organization, and ask yourselves, are you ready? To learn more about this subject, click here to download our recent Executive Briefing webinar, or contact a ClearEdge representative for a discussion.