What should we do with “legacy” Java 8 applications?

Java is a mature programming language. It was improved over many successive versions. Mostly, new Java versions did not break your code. Thus Java was a great, reliable platform.

For some reason, the Oracle engineers decided to break things after Java 8. You cannot “just” upgrade from Java 8 to the following versions. You have to update your systems, sometimes in a significant way.

For management purposes, my employer uses an ugly Java application, launched by browsers via something called Java Web Start. I am sure that my employer’s application was very modern when it launched, but it is now tragically old and ugly. Oracle has ended maintenance of Java 8 in January. It may stop making Java 8 available publicly at the end of 2020. Yet my employer’s application won’t work with anything beyond Java 8.

Java on the desktop is not ideal. For a business applications, you are much better off with a pure Web application. It is easier to maintain, secure, it is more portable. Our IT staff knows this, they are not idiots. They are preparing a Web equivalent that should launch… some day… But it is complicated. They do not have infinite budgets and there are many stakeholders.

What do we do while something more modern is being built?

If you are a start-up, you can just switch to the open-source version of Java 8 like OpenJDK. But we are part of a large organization. We want to rely on supported software: doing otherwise would be irresponsible.

So what do we do?

I think that their current plan is just to stick with Java 8. They have an Oracle license, so they can keep on installing Java 8 on PCs even if Oracle pulls the plug.

But is that wise?

I think that a better solution would be to switch to Amazon Corretto. Amazon recruited James Gosling, Java’s inventor. It feels like the future of Java may move in Amazon’s hands.

Update: RedHat is offering paid support for OpenJDK 8.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

7 thoughts on “What should we do with “legacy” Java 8 applications?”

  1. How much “no cost” support do you expect to recieve from Amazon for this “no cost” product Corretto? Amazon, re-branding “free” as “no cost”. What happens when 200 other companies also need “no cost” support?

  2. Lesson learned, use C or C++, no-one ‘owns’ those languages [so no java, no go, no swift, no C#, no F#, no VB, no typescript, no erlang, not anything that smells of propriety].

  3. Azul (who I work for) provides Zulu as an alternative to the Oracle JDK, being a build based on OpenJDK. This is available in Community Edition (free) or Enterprise Edition (commercial with support and SLAs).

    The biggest challenge you face is that Java Web Start is not part of OpenJDK (it is closed source and has not been contributed by Oracle). Therefore, you need something to replace it; there are alternatives like IcedTEA web but this is not a drop-in replacement and you need to evaluate carefully how this is updated with security patches.

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