Oracle per-employee Java licensing could benefit rivals


Oracle’s controversial new Java pricing plan, based on the customer’s total number of employees, rather than the number of employees using the software, presents opportunities for Java rivals Eclipse Foundation and Azul, the companies said.

Eclipse immediately seized on the opportunity to pitch its alternative. “Stumbled across Oracle’s latest Java price list,” tweeted Eclipse Executive Director Mike Milinkovich on January 27. “Wow, I had no idea that Java was so expensive! Fortunately, you can download the fully compatible, community supported, quality-certified, Temurin OpenJDK distribution for free!” 

Milinkovich linked to the Eclipse Adoptium’s free OpenJDK binaries and to Oracle’s new Java pricing scheme, which went into effect January 23. Called Java SE Universal Subscription, Oracle’s new plan replaced the legacy Java SE Subscription and Java SE Desktop Subscription plans.

Azul said that it has seen a massive increase in inquiries about Java licensing since Oracle’s Universal pricing plan debuted. “This is a major shock to the Java ecosystem,” Azul President/CEO Scott Sellers said. He described Oracle’s plan as one of the few instances he could think of in which pricing is decoupled from the value derived from the software. Azul’s Java pricing, Sellers noted, is based on how many people are actually using it.

Oracle in a FAQ said the Universal plan permits use across the desktop, servers, and third-party clouds, thus simplifying tracking and management. But the per-employee pricing plan stipulates that the number of employees is defined as actual number of employees (including full-time, part-time, and temporary employees, as well as employees of third parties supporting a company), not just those using the programs.

Besides Eclipse and Azul, companies such as Microsoft and Red Hat also offer distributions of standard Java. Oracle’s share of the Java market already had dropped precipitously, from about 75% in 2020 to 34.48% in 2022, according to New Relic’s 2022 State of the Java Ecosystem report. Oracle is set to release Java Development Kit (JDK) 20, its next version of standard Java, on March 21.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.


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