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The Perils of Oracle Java

In 2019, Oracle changed its licensing practices for its open-source programming language and development platform software, Java. The changes meant that, while individual developers could still use the tool for free, organizations now had to buy Java as a product.

However, in September 2021, Oracle made a 180 degree turn and announced that Java 17, the latest long-term support (LTS) version of the platform, would be free once again for individual developers AND organizations alike.

This new version – which is licensed under the Oracle No-Fee Terms and Conditions (NFTC) Agreement – will remain on a free-to-use license basis until September 2024, a full year after the next LTS release, which Oracle is proposing as Java 21 with a release date of 2023.

But while Oracle states that “customers can migrate to Java 17 at the pace that best meets their needs”, the return to free licensing has raised many a question.

Implications of this new version of Oracle Java

Java 17 has left organizations in particular with numerous questions. Here we delve into the most common queries and concerns about Java 17 that we have seen at Livingstone:

Will older versions of Java now be free as well?

In short, no! Older versions of Java are still governed by their original terms and conditions, so it is extremely unlikely that they will become retroactively free of charge.

Will Java 17 remain free after September 2024?

The answer to this question is unknown at this point. If Oracle came to the realization that the changes made in 2019 resulted in a lot of frustrated customers and confusion around the licensing of the product then it is possible to see further releases that are free. On the other hand, it could be a move to win some time to better prepare its auditing team and revert course to force customers to pay for Java. We won’t really know until we get closer to the expiration date.

What happens in 2024?

Organizations wishing to remain on version 17 after 2024 must take several matters into consideration. Firstly, there is the question of what are the cost implications of staying with Java 17 after the free licensing period ends since staying on version 17 would require a paid subscription. Second, and linked directly to cost, organizations must also determine how many licenses they will need to purchase to ensure business is as usual.

To get a head start and ensure these points can be resolved in anticipation of September 2024 and in the most optimized way possible, organizations need to plan ahead, continuously monitor usage and manage their Oracle Java estate effectively. This is where ITAM is key.

Plan ahead and be prepared for Oracle negotiations

As with all other software products, it is vital that organizations keep an eye on all usage and deployments from the very start of a product’s implementation. This is true even for free products like Java 17, as there is always the very real possibility that the free version will acquire a price tag in the future.

When September 2024 comes around, organizations that know what their usage and deployments are for Java will be able to determine exactly what their licensing requirements are and be able to purchase the correct number of licenses without over-spending.

Knowing where your estate stands is vital to maintaining control over costs, contracts, consumption and even compliance. And by always having an up-to-date picture of what’s going on, organizations will also be better placed to be able to handle whatever the future brings.

Indeed, preparation is key to successfully controlling software estates. Every organization has specific product and license requirements, so last-minute decisions about how many licenses are need aren’t the answer. If Java 17 does require paid-for licenses in the future, then organizations must also be prepared for negotiating with Oracle to get the best contract that fits their specific requirements and is value for money.

To ensure that you are not rushed into a deal that could prove problematic further down the line, it is imperative to start preparing ahead of time, starting with a strategic approach and by knowing your requirements – free licensing or not.


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About the Author

Livingstone Group | Oracle Practice Lead | Razvan Tarnovschi

Razvan Tarnovschi, Oracle Practice Lead

Razvan joined Livingstone Group in 2021 as Oracle Practice Lead and brings with him 13 years of Oracle experience.  During this time, his responsibilities included negotiating high dollar value contracts with customers.  Razvan has a deep understanding of the language of Oracle's complex contracts including policies and terms.

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