Monday, February 5, 2018

Java 8: Bastion of Long-term Support

Stephen Colebourne's post "Java 9 has six weeks to live" starts, "Java 9 is obsolete in just six weeks." Colebourne references the Mark Reinhold blog post "Moving Java Forward Faster" and writes, "The new Java release train means that there will be a new release of Java every six months. And when the next release comes out, the previous release is obsolete." Colebourne points out that those still on Java 8 can enjoy this "current LTS (long term support) release until the next LTS release occurs (Java 11)." However, for those who have already moved to Java 9, different choices must be made and Colebourne outlines these choices at a high level. Colebourne outlines several types of dependencies that must also move forward every six months and concludes, "I think it's fair to say that it's a bold choice to use Java 9 or 10."

As a reminder, the aforementioned Reinhold blog post "Moving Java Forward Faster" outlines how the new proposed release train addresses "the tension between developers, who prefer rapid innovation, and enterprises, which prefer stability, and the fact that everyone prefers regular and predictable releases." The following are key points of this new release train approach:

  • "Adopt a strict, time-based model with a new feature release every six months, update releases every quarter, and a long-term support release every three years." (I added the emphasis)
  • Feature Releases (which "contain any type of feature") ship in March and September of each year with the first one being March 2018 (JDK 10 that Colebourne references when he writes, "Java 9 has six weeks to live").
  • Update Releases (which are "strictly limited to fixes of security issues, regressions, and bugs in newer features") occur between the Feature Releases with two Update Releases between each Feature Release and scheduled with quarter periodicity in the months of January, April, July, and October.
  • Long-Term Support Releases are the same as the Feature Release every third year starting in September 2018. Updates for these long-term support releases will be available at least until the next long-term support release and often may be available longer than those three years.
  • Additional details regarding the Java release train can be found at the #javatrain Twitter handle, in the General OpenJDK Discussion distribution list, in the page "Oracle Java SE Support Roadmap," and in the page "Faster and Easier Use and Redistribution of Java SE."
  • It was recently announced that "the public availability of Java SE 8 updates from Oracle has been extended to at least January 2019" and that "Oracle will continue to provide consumers with updates for personal (non-corporate) use of Java SE 8 through at least the end of 2020."

Colebourne is not the only one to warn Java developers to consider the ramifications of moving from Java 8 to Java 9. In the post "Java 9: No Long-Term Support and Twice-Yearly JDK Releases," Carly Yuk writes that "Java 9 will not be entitled to long-term maintenance." Yuk adds that "enterprises that are running applications in products may want to consider waiting for the future long-term release." Paul Krill writes that "Java 9 will not receive long-term support" and Ben Evans has been paraphrased, "Since Oracle has announced that Java 8 will be a long-term support release, supported through 2022, Evans thinks that a lot of applications might stay on Java 8 and not upgrade to Java 9 at all."

There is much to think about when deciding whether to upgrade to Java 9 or not. There is no single "correct" answer as situations, environments, priorities, and uses of Java differ greatly. In general, developers of larger "enterprise" type applications will likely want to only adopt the long-term support releases and developers of smaller applications will likely be willing to adopt feature releases and associated update releases to get access to new features sooner. This ability to choose between "rapid innovation" and supported stable versions is one of the driving motivations for the new release train.

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