July 24, 2013, 11:07 AM — Adding to a growing portfolio of enterprise software it offers as hosted services, Microsoft plans to add Java to its Windows Azure cloud service.
"Having support for a Java platform on Azure is something our customers have been asking for," said Gianugo Rabellino, who is Microsoft Open Technologies' senior director for open source communities.
Rabellino announced the Azure addition at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, being held this week in Portland, Oregon. "Customers will be able to run their Java workload in a fully supported environment," he said.
Microsoft will offer the Java Standard Edition (Java SE) by the end of the year both as a stand-alone PaaS (platform as a service) and as component of a Windows Server IaaS (infrastructure as a service), both on the Windows Azure service.
For the Java runtime, Microsoft has commissioned Azul Systems to develop and maintain a version of the Java OpenJDK, the reference implementation of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and runtime for Java SE.
Azul has plenty of experience with Java. The company's flagship product, Zing, is a customized JVM for high performance use that has been on the market for over a decade, and has found customers in the financial community. As a result, Azul has extensive experience working with the Java compliance tests. Although the specification for Java itself is open source, vendors must have any products using the Java name pass the Oracle compatibility test.
Azul also has members in the Java Community Process (JCP), the board overseeing Java development.
The addition of Java shows that "Microsoft is serious about running any and every workload," on Azure, wrote Al Hilwa, an IDC analyst covering application development software. "Azul is an excellent partner that knows open source and can really bring its Java knowledge to Azure cloud enterprise clients."
Although Rabellino did not say why Microsoft hired an outside contractor to maintain the OpenJDK, the move is not a surprising one, given Microsoft's rocky history with Java. The company launched its own version of the language, called J++, in 1996, the year after Java itself debuted.
J++ prompted a lawsuit from Sun Microsystems, which then owned Java and licensed the technology to Microsoft. Sun charged that Microsoft's version of Java was incompatible with the Java specification. As a result of the legal action, Microsoft stopped updating J++ by 2001, and discontinued support for the language by 2004.