Java / Java licensing

Cost Analysis Migrating Between Different Java Distributions

Cost Analysis Migrating Between Different Java Distributions

  • Oracle JDK 17+:
    • Free for two years
    • Subscription needed after two years
  • Older Versions (BCL):
    • Potentially free
    • Minimal costs if no support is required
  • OpenJDK:
    • Free
    • Internal support costs
  • Azul Java:
    • Subscription-based
    • Varies by support level
  • AWS Corretto:
    • Free
    • Optional AWS support costs


Migrating between different versions of Java SE or alternative Java distributions can be a strategic move to optimize costs and ensure compliance.

This article provides detailed cost analysis for various migration options, including upgrading to newer versions, downgrading to free versions, and switching to alternative Java distributions like OpenJDK, Azul Java, and AWS Corretto Java.

Migration Options

Migration Options

1. Upgrading to Oracle JDK 17 and Onwards

Oracle JDK 17 and later versions are available under the NFTC (No-Fee Terms and Conditions) license, making them free for production use. However, long-term support and security updates beyond the initial two years require a commercial subscription.

Cost Considerations:

  • Initial Cost: Free for the first two years under the NFTC license.
  • Ongoing Cost: Subscription required for long-term support and updates after two years.
  • Example Scenario:
    • Small Business: The initial cost for a company with 50 employees using Oracle JDK 17 is zero. After two years, if they opt for a subscription, they must budget for ongoing support costs.

2. Downgrading to Older Versions Under the BCL Agreement

Oracle is currently less stringent about enforcing licenses for older Java versions. Downgrading to a version like Java 8, available under the Binary Code License (BCL) agreement, can be cost-effective.

Cost Considerations:

  • Initial Cost: Potentially free, depending on the version and its licensing terms.
  • Ongoing Cost: Minimal if updates and support are not required.
  • Example Scenario:
    • Mid-Sized Business: A company with 200 employees downgrades to Java 8. Their licensing cost can be negligible if they do not require updates or support.

3. Migrating to OpenJDK

Migrating to OpenJDK

OpenJDK is a free, open-source Java Platform, Standard Edition implementation. The community widely supports and regularly updates it.

Cost Considerations:

  • Initial Cost: Free
  • Ongoing Cost: Free, but internal resources may be required for support and maintenance.
  • Example Scenario:
    • Enterprise: A large enterprise with 1,000 employees switched to OpenJDK, resulting in significant cost savings as it no longer needs to pay for Java SE licenses.

4. Migrating to Azul Java

Azul Systems offers commercial builds of OpenJDK with various support options. Azul Java provides enhanced performance and security features, making it a robust alternative.

Cost Considerations:

  • Initial Cost: Subscription-based, varies by support level.
  • Ongoing Cost: Subscription-based, with options for different levels of support and updates.
  • Example Scenario:
    • Large Enterprise: A company with 500 employees chooses Azul Java. They pay for a subscription that includes comprehensive support and performance enhancements, ensuring their systems remain secure and optimized.

5. Migrating to AWS Corretto Java

AWS Corretto is a free, multiplatform, production-ready distribution of OpenJDK maintained by Amazon. It comes with long-term support that includes performance enhancements and security updates.

Cost Considerations:

  • Initial Cost: Free
  • Ongoing Cost: Free, with optional AWS support services.
  • Example Scenario:
    • Tech Startup: A startup with 100 employees migrates to AWS Corretto, leveraging Amazon’s free distribution for cost savings and relying on internal resources for support.

Comparative Cost Analysis

Comparative Cost Analysis

Initial Costs:

  • Oracle JDK 17 and Onwards: Free (first two years)
  • Older Versions Under BCL: Potentially free
  • OpenJDK: Free
  • Azul Java: Subscription-based
  • AWS Corretto: Free

Ongoing Costs:

  • Oracle JDK 17 and Onwards: Subscription after two years
  • Older Versions Under BCL: Minimal if no support is needed
  • OpenJDK: Free, internal support required
  • Azul Java: Subscription-based, varies by support level
  • AWS Corretto: Free, optional AWS support services

Strategic Considerations

Strategic Considerations

Evaluating Needs:

  • Support and Updates: Assess the importance of regular updates and support for your operations. Enterprises with critical applications may prioritize options with comprehensive support.
  • Internal Resources: Consider the availability of internal resources to manage and support the Java environment. If you have in-house expertise, OpenJDK and AWS Corretto can be cost-effective.
  • Compliance: Ensure compliance with licensing terms to avoid potential legal issues and unexpected costs.

Planning for Migration:

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: Conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis to compare the financial impact of each migration option.
  • Pilot Testing: Implement a pilot test for the chosen migration path to identify potential issues and ensure a smooth transition.
  • Training and Documentation: Provide adequate training and documentation to your team to facilitate the migration and ongoing management of the new Java environment.


Migrating between different versions of Java SE or switching to alternative distributions can offer significant cost savings and operational benefits.

Businesses can make informed decisions that align with their budget and technical requirements by carefully evaluating each option’s costs and strategic implications.

Understanding the costs involved is key to a successful migration strategy, whether upgrading to Oracle JDK 17, downgrading to an older version, or migrating to OpenJDK, Azul Java, or AWS Corretto.

If you cannot migrate away, look at our article on Java SE negotiation.


  • Fredrik Filipsson

    Fredrik Filipsson brings two decades of Oracle license management experience, including a nine-year tenure at Oracle and 11 years in Oracle license consulting. His expertise extends across leading IT corporations like IBM, enriching his profile with a broad spectrum of software and cloud projects. Filipsson's proficiency encompasses IBM, SAP, Microsoft, and Salesforce platforms, alongside significant involvement in Microsoft Copilot and AI initiatives, improving organizational efficiency.

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