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Dustin Marx

More Frequent Java Long-Term Releases

A little over four years ago, Mark Reinhold (Chief Architect of the Java Platform Group at Oracle) stated in his blog post “Moving Java Forward Faster“: “For Java to remain competitive it must not just continue to move forward — it must move forward faster.” In that post, Reinhold proposed “that after Java 9 we 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.” Reinhold stated that the motivation for this was that Java “must move forward faster … for Java to remain competitive.” Recently, a little over four years since the “Moving Java Forward Faster” post, Reinhold has posted “Moving Java Forward Even Faster.”

Mark Reinhold’s proposal in “Moving Java Forward Even Faster” is to “ship an LTS release every two years” instead of shipping a long-term support (LTS) release every three years as has been done since the 2017 proposal was implemented. Reinhold adds, “This change will give both enterprises, and their developers, more opportunities to move forward” and “will also increase the attractiveness of the non-LTS feature releases.”

In the “Moving Java Forward Even Faster” post, Reinhold explains the motivation for reducing the time between LTS releases from three years to two years: “Developers are excited about the new features — which is great! Many are frustrated, however, that they cannot use them right away since their employers are only willing to deploy applications on LTS releases, which only ship once every three years.”

Reinhold posted a similar message to the OpenJDK general discussion mailing list. In that message, he points out that “the LTS release following JDK 17 would thus be JDK 21 (in 2023), rather than JDK 23 (in 2024).” Reinhold also points out, “This change would, if accepted, have no effect on the main-line feature releases developed in the JDK Project. Every such release is intended to be stable and ready for production use, whether it’s an LTS release or not.”

Reinhold concludes his message with a request for feedback via comments and questions. There have already been some interesting responses:

  • Volker Simonis has replied on behalf of the Amazon Corretto team: “I’d like to express our support for the new JDK LTS release cadence proposal. We think this is the right step forward to keep the OpenJDK project vibrant and relevant with benefits for both developers and enterprises.”
  • Martijn Verburg has replied on behalf of the Microsoft Java Engineering Team: “We would also like to endorse the 2-year LTS proposal for builds of OpenJDK. Since most of the end-user ecosystem prefers to have the extra stability of an LTS, this is a great way to encourage them with their modernization efforts!”
  • Gil Tene has replied on behalf of Azul: “I’d like to express our strong support for this proposal to move to a more frequent LTS cadence in OpenJDK.”
    • Tene adds, “It does come with an extra maintenance burden for the community as a whole, but that burden is well worth it in our opinion.”
  • Andrew Hale of RedHat replied: “So, from me it’s a rather nervous yes, but.” Hale discussed why the decision was “nuanced” and depends on the perspective taken:
    • “As developers of Java as well as users of it, we’re perhaps biased in favour of new features, and we’re less likely to feel the adverse effects of the upgrade treadmill.”
    • “From my point of view as an engineer, moving to a two-year LTS cycle is broadly positive.”
    • “Certifying libraries to run on a new Java release can take months of effort, and no-one is going to welcome having to do so more frequently.”
    • “Many of our end users have been highly resistant to upgrading to new Java releases.”
  • Rémi Forax has replied: “I’ve discussed with quite a lot of people during this week, most of them prefer a 2 year schedule for a LTS. 2 years is good for application developers, 3 years is better for library maintainers. There is at least 10x more application developers.”

The Oracle Java SE Support Roadmap has been updated to reflect the two-year candence for LTS releases. It now states (I added the emphasis), “Oracle will designate only certain releases as Long-Term-Support (LTS) releases. Java SE 7, 8, 11 and 17 are LTS releases. Oracle intends to make future LTS releases every two years meaning the next planned LTS release is Java 21 in September 2023.”

As a developer who uses the latest JDK releases for personal projects (and often even “plays” with the OpenJDK Early-Access Builds) and then deals with the frustration of using older versions of the JDK on different projects in my “day jobs,” I believe that reducing the wait between LTS releases from three years to two years will be welcome.

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Published on Java Code Geeks with permission by Dustin Marx, partner at our JCG program. See the original article here: More Frequent Java Long-Term Releases

Opinions expressed by Java Code Geeks contributors are their own.

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