Java / Java licensing

Java Licensing in the Open Source Era

Java Licensing in the Open Source Era

  • OpenJDK Introduction (2006): Sun Microsystems released OpenJDK, promoting open-source Java.
  • 2019 Shift: Oracle moved to a subscription-based model, increasing costs.
  • Rise of Alternatives: Businesses adopted OpenJDK and other providers like Amazon Corretto and Azul Zulu.
  • Strategic Adaptations: Companies migrated to open source, blocked Oracle JDK downloads, and simplified compliance.

Introduction Java Licensing in the Open Source Era

Introduction Java Licensing in the Open Source Era

The rise of open source has significantly impacted software development, including the licensing and distribution of Java.

Open-source trends have influenced how businesses approach Java licensing, leading to increased adoption of open-source alternatives and changes in Oracle’s licensing strategies.

This article explores the impact of open-source trends on Java licensing and how organizations have adapted to these changes.

Rise of Open Source and Java

Rise of Open Source and Java

Early Open Source Initiatives:

Java’s journey into the open-source landscape began with Sun Microsystems’ announcement of the OpenJDK project in 2006.

OpenJDK, the open-source implementation of the Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE), marked a significant step toward embracing the open-source model.

  • OpenJDK: OpenJDK was released under the GNU General Public License (GPL) with a Classpath Exception, making it freely available for modification and distribution.
  • Community Contributions: The open-source model encouraged contributions from developers worldwide, fostering innovation and collaboration in the Java community.

Impact on Oracle’s Java Licensing

Impact on Oracle's Java Licensing

Transition to Subscription-Based Licensing:

In 2019, Oracle shifted from perpetual licensing to a subscription-based model for Java SE. This change was influenced by the need to monetize Java more effectively, but it also sparked increased interest in open-source alternatives.

  • Subscription Model: Oracle introduced recurring fees for updates and support, significantly increasing the cost of using Oracle JDK.
  • Named User Plus and Processor Licensing: Businesses now had to pay monthly fees based on the number of named users or processors.

Response to Open Source Trends:

The rise of open-source alternatives like OpenJDK pressured Oracle to adapt its licensing strategies. Many organizations began migrating to OpenJDK to avoid the high costs associated with Oracle’s subscription model.

OpenJDK and Alternative JDK Providers

OpenJDK and Alternative JDK Providers

Adoption of OpenJDK:

OpenJDK has become the go-to alternative for many businesses considering reducing their Java licensing costs. Its open-source nature and compatibility with Oracle JDK have made it popular.

  • Free and Open-Source: OpenJDK is available at no cost, allowing organizations to use Java without the financial burden of subscription fees.
  • Compatibility: As the reference implementation of Java SE, OpenJDK ensures compatibility with Oracle JDK, making the transition seamless for most applications.

Alternative JDK Providers:

Several vendors have developed their builds of OpenJDK, offering additional features and support. These providers cater to different needs and preferences, providing businesses various options.

  • AdoptOpenJDK: A community-led project that provides free, high-quality OpenJDK binaries.
  • Amazon Corretto: Amazon’s no-cost, multiplatform, production-ready distribution of OpenJDK with long-term support.
  • Azul Zulu: A commercially supported build of OpenJDK from Azul Systems, offering enhanced performance and security features.

Strategic Adaptations by Businesses

Strategic Adaptations by Businesses

Migration to Open Source:

Many businesses have migrated to open-source alternatives like OpenJDK in response to Oracle’s increased costs and licensing complexity.

  • Cost Savings: OpenJDK allows organizations to avoid the recurring fees associated with Oracle JDK, resulting in significant cost savings.
  • Simplified Compliance: The open-source licensing model simplifies compliance, as there are no fees or complex licensing terms to manage.

Blocking Oracle JDK Downloads:

Organizations have implemented measures to block downloads of Oracle JDK across their networks to prevent accidental installations that could incur licensing costs.

  • Policy Implementation: Companies enforce strict policies to ensure only approved JDK distributions, such as OpenJDK, are used within their environments.
  • Monitoring and Auditing: Regular monitoring and auditing help ensure compliance with these policies and prevent unintentional violations.

Future of Java Licensing in the Open Source Era

Future of Java Licensing in the Open Source Era

Continued Evolution:

The impact of open source on Java licensing is likely to continue evolving. As more organizations adopt open-source alternatives, Oracle may need to adapt its strategies further to remain competitive.

  • Innovation and Competition: Increased competition from open-source JDK providers will drive innovation and improve features and support options.
  • Oracle’s Response: To attract and retain customers, Oracle may introduce new licensing models or enhance its subscription offerings.

Open Source Collaboration:

The open-source community will play a crucial role in Java’s future. Collaboration and contributions from developers worldwide will ensure that Java remains a robust and evolving platform.

  • Community Involvement: Active participation in open-source projects like OpenJDK will drive the development of new features and improvements.
  • Sustainability: The open-source model ensures Java’s sustainability and continued growth, benefiting the entire ecosystem.


The rise of open source has significantly impacted Java licensing, leading to increased adoption of alternatives like OpenJDK and changes in Oracle’s licensing strategies.

Businesses have adapted by migrating to open-source solutions, implementing policies to prevent accidental Oracle JDK installations, and exploring alternative JDK providers.

As the open-source era continues to evolve, the future of Java licensing will be shaped by innovation, competition, and community collaboration.

Understanding these trends and their implications will help organizations navigate the complexities of Java licensing and make informed decisions for their Java deployments.


  • 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.

    View all posts