Jakarta EE: Past, Present, and Future

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You may have heard some talk about a new Java framework called Jakarta EE, in this article we will cover what Jakarta EE actually is, how we got here, and what to expect when it’s actually released.

History and Background

In September of 2017, Oracle announced it was donating Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation.

Isn’t Eclipse a Java IDE?

Most Java developers are familiar with the hugely popular Eclipse IDE, therefore for many, when they hear the word “Eclipse”, the Eclipse IDE comes to mind. Not everybody knows that the Eclipse IDE is developed by the Eclipse Foundation, an open source foundation similar to the Apache Foundation and the Linux Foundation. In addition to the Eclipse IDE, the Eclipse Foundation develops several other Java tools and APIs such as Eclipse Vert.x, Eclipse Yasson, and EclipseLink.

Java EE was the successor to J2EE; which was a wildly popular set of specifications for implementing enterprise software. In spite of its popularity, many J2EE APIs were cumbersome to use and required lots of boilerplate code. Sun Microsystems, together with the Java community as part of the Java Community Process (JCP), replaced J2EE with Java EE in 2006. Java EE introduced a much nicer, lightweight programming model, making enterprise Java development much more easier than what could be accomplished with J2EE.

J2EE was so popular that, to this day, it is incorrectly used as a generic term for all server-side Java technologies. Many, to this day still refer to Java EE as J2EE, and incorrectly assume Java EE is a bloated, convoluted technology. In short, J2EE was so popular that even Java EE can’t shake its predecessor’s reputation for being a “heavyweight” technology.

In 2010 Oracle purchased Sun Microsystems, and became the steward for Java technology, including Java EE. Java EE 7 was released in 2013, after the Sun Microsystems acquisition by Oracle, simplifying enterprise software development even further, and adding additional APIs to meet new demands of enterprise software systems.

Work on Java EE 8, the latest version of the Java EE specification, began shortly after Java EE 7 was released. In the beginning everything seemed to be going well, however  in early 2016, the Java EE community started noticing a lack of progress in Java EE 8, particularly Java Specification Requests (JSRs) led by Oracle. The perceived lack of Java EE 8 progress became a big concern for many in the Java EE community. Since the specifications were owned by Oracle, there was no legal way for any other entity to continue making progress on Java EE 8.

In response to the perceived lack of progress, several Java EE vendors, including big names such as IBM and Red Hat, got together and started the Microprofile initiative, which aimed to introduce new APIs to Java EE, with a focus on optimizing Java EE for developing systems based on a microservices architecture. The idea wasn’t to compete with Java EE per se, but to develop new specifications in the hopes that they would be eventually added to Java EE proper.

In addition to big vendors reacting to the perceived Java EE progress, a grassroots organization called the Java EE Guardians was formed, led largely by prominent Java EE advocate Reza Rahman. The Java EE Guardians provided a way for Java EE developers and advocates to have a united, collective voice which could urge Oracle to either keep working on Java EE 8, or to allow the community to continue the work themselves.

Nobody can say for sure how much influence the Microprofile initiative and Java EE Guardians had, but many speculate that Java EE would have never been donated to the Eclipse Foundation had it not been for these two initiatives.

One Standard, Multiple Implementations

It is worth mentioning that Java EE is not a framework per se, but a set of specifications for various APIs. Some examples of Java EE specifications include the Java API for RESTful Web Services (JAX-RS), Contexts and Dependency Injection (CDI), and the Java Persistence API (JPA).

There are several implementations of Java EE, commonly known as application servers or runtimes, examples include Weblogic, JBoss, Websphere, Apache Tomee, GlassFish and Payara. Since all of these implement the Java EE specifications, code written against one of these servers can easily be migrated to another one, with minimal or no modifications. Coding against the Java EE standard provides protection against vendor lock-in. Once Jakarta EE is completely migrated to the Eclipse Foundation, it will continue being a specification with multiple implementations, keeping one of the biggest benefits of Java EE.

To become Java EE certified, application server vendors had to pay Oracle a fee to obtain a Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK), which is a set of tests vendors can use to make sure their products comply 100% with the Java EE specification. The fact that the TCK is closed source and not publicly available has been a source of controversy among the Java EE community. It is expected that the TCK will be made publicly available once the transition to the Eclipse Foundation is complete.

From Java EE to Jakarta EE

Once the announcement of the donation was made, it became clear that for legal reasons Java EE would have to be renamed, as Oracle owns the “Java” trademark.

The Eclipse Foundation requested input from the community, hundreds of suggestions were submitted. The Foundation made it clear that naming such a big project is no easy task, there are several constraints that may not be obvious to the casual observer, such as: the name must not be trademarked in any country, it must be catchy, and it must not spell profanity in any language. Out of hundreds of suggestions, the Eclipse Foundation narrowed them down to two choices, “Enterprise Profile” and “Jakarta EE”, and had the community vote for their favorite. “Jakarta EE” won by a fairly large margin.

It is worth mentioning that the name “Jakarta” carries a bit of history in the Java world, as it used to be an umbrella project under the Apache Foundation. Several very popular Java tools and libraries used to fall under the Jakarta umbrella, such as the ANT build tool, the Struts MVC framework, and many others.

Where we are in the transition

Ever since the announcement, the Eclipse Foundation along with the Java EE community at large has been furiously working on transitioning Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation. Transitioning such a huge and far reaching project to an open source foundation is a huge undertaking, and as such it takes some time.

Some of the progress so far includes relicensing all Oracle led Java EE technologies, including reference implementations (RI), Technology Compatibility Kits (TCK) and project documentation.  39 projects have been created under the Jakarta EE umbrella, corresponding to 39 Java EE specifications being donated to the Eclipse Foundation.

Reference Implementations

Each Java EE specification must include a reference implementation, which proves that the requirements on the specification can be met by actual code. For example, the reference implementation for JSF is called Mojarra, the CDI reference implementation is called Weld, and the JPA is called EclipseLink. Similarly, all other Java EE specifications have a corresponding reference implementation.

These 39 projects are in different stages of completion, a small minority are still in the proposal stage; some have provisioned committers and other resources, but code and other artifacts hasn’t been transitioned yet; some have had the initial contribution (code and related content) transitioned already, the majority of the projects have had the initial contribution committed to the Eclipse Foundation’s Git repository, and a few have had their first Release Review, which is a formal announcement of the project’s release to the Eclipse Foundation, and a request for feedback.

Current status for all 39 projects can be found at https://www.eclipse.org/ee4j/status.php.

Additionally, the Jakarta EE working group was established, which includes Java EE implementation vendors, companies that either rely on Java EE or provide products or services complementary to Java EE, as well as individuals interested in advancing Jakarta EE.

It is worth noting that Pivotal, the company behind the popular Spring Framework, has joined the Jakarta EE Working Group. This is worth pointing out as the Spring Framework and Java EE have traditionally been perceived as competing technologies. With Pivotal joining the Jakarta EE Working Group some are speculating that “the feud may soon be over”, with Jakarta EE and Spring cooperating with each other instead of competing.

At the time of writing, it has been almost a year since the announcement that Java EE is moving to the Eclipse foundation, some may be wondering what is holding up the process. Transitioning a project of such a massive scale as Java EE involves several tasks that may not be obvious to the casual observer, both tasks related to legal compliance as well as technical tasks.

For example, each individual source code file needs to be inspected to make sure it has the correct license header. Project dependencies for each API need to be analyzed. For legal reasons, some of the Java EE technologies need to be renamed, appropriate names need to be found. Additionally, build environments need to be created for each project under the Eclipse Foundation infrastructure. In short, there is more work than meets the eye.

What to expect when the transition is complete

The first release of Jakarta EE will be 100% compatible with Java EE. Existing Java EE applications, application servers and runtimes will also be Jakarta EE compliant.

Sometime after the announcement, the Eclipse Foundation surveyed the Java EE community as to the direction Jakarta EE should take under the Foundation’s guidance. The community overwhelmingly stated that they want better support for cloud deployment, as well as better support for microservices. As such, expect Jakarta EE to evolve to better support these technologies. Representatives from the Eclipse Foundation have stated that release cadence for Jakarta EE will be more frequent than it was for Java EE when it was under Oracle.

In summary, the first version of Jakarta EE will be an open version of Java EE 8, after that we can expect better support for cloud and microservices development, as well as a faster release cadence.

Help Create the Future of Jakarta EE

Anyone, from large corporations to individual contributors can contribute to Jakarta EE. I would like to invite interested readers to contribute! Here are a few ways to do so:

Subscribe to Jakarta EE community mailing list: [email protected]

Contribute to EE4J projects: https://github.com/eclipse-ee4j

You can also keep up to date with the latest Jakarta EE happenings by following Jakarta EE on Twitter at @JakartaEE or by visiting the Jakarta EE web site at https://jakarta.ee

About the Author

David R. Heffelfinger

David Heffelfinger

David R. Heffelfinger is an independent consultant based in the Washington D.C. area. He is a Java Champion, an Apache NetBeans committer, and a former member of the JavaOne content committee. He has written several books on Java EE, application servers, NetBeans, and JasperReports. David is a frequent speaker at software development conferences such as JavaOne, Oracle Code and NetBeans Day. You can follow him on Twitter at @ensode.


David R. Heffelfinger is an independent consultant based in the Washington D.C. area. He is a Java Champion, an Apache NetBeans committer, and a former member of the JavaOne content committee. He has written several books on Java EE, application servers, NetBeans, and JasperReports. David is a frequent speaker at software development conferences such as JavaOne, Oracle Code and NetBeans Day. You can follow him David Twitter at @ensode.


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