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Microsoft and Azul Partner to Bring Java to Azure

Microsoft and Azul Systems are teaming up to allow Java developers on Azure and Azure Stack to build and run production Java applications using Zulu Enterprise, the commercially supported edition of Azul's flagship Java runtime.

For its part, Microsoft will be making fully compatible and compliant commercial builds of Java SE available for Java developers on its Azure cloud computing platform and its Azure Stack hybrid solution. Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Azul will be providing fully-supported Zulu Enterprise builds of OpenJDK for Azure for all long-term support (LTS) versions of Java, starting with Java SE 7, 8, and 11.

This isn't actually a new partnership, explained Scott Sellers, Azul Systems president and CEO, but an extension of an existing relationship that began back in 2014.

"We have been delivering certified builds of OpenJDK to Microsoft for several years now," Sellers said. "The announcement in 2014 was the first time we named our Zulu offering. With today's announcement we're extending our partnership to deliver fully supported builds of Zulu Enterprise to the community of Azure-based Java developers. And it's free for those Azure customers.

This new Java offering is designed to make Azure-based Java deployments "worry-free," wrote Asir Selvasingh, Principal Program Manager in Microsoft's Azure Developer Experience group, in a blog post, by incorporating quarterly security updates, bug fixes, and critical out-of-band updates and patches as needed.

"We know that Java developers will continue to make heavy use of Java 7 and 8 for years to come, Selvasingh wrote. "This motivated us to work with Azul Systems in order to deliver a seamless remedy for a looming concern on so many people's minds. Java developers using Azure can migrate to new versions of Java at their own pace and with peace of mind."

That "looming concern" stems from the accelerated release cadence for Java, which Oracle began implementing this year. The faster schedule provides for a feature release every six months, update releases every quarter, and a long-term support (LTS) release every three years. The JDK 10 release in March was a feature release, and the first in the new rapid release cadence. JDK 11, the first LTS release, was announced this week.

Although the accelerated cadence was greeted by the Java community largely as a positive development, Sellers has pointed out that it's going to leave some widely used versions of Java without long-term support, including Java 8, which has been in the market for a long time and is by far the most widely used version of Java.

"We like the thinking behind the faster release cadence," Sellers said. "And I believe it has energized the Java community in a way we haven't seen in years. But it does mean that Oracle will be focused on newer versions of Java, and effectively letting others worry about maintaining older versions. I think that's a fair position; at some point, you've got to stop worrying about the older versions. But it means that someone else has to pick up the ball."

Azul's Zulu Enterprise builds of OpenJDK are compatible and compliant builds of OpenJDK that have been extensively tested and certified by Azul Systems, Selvasingh noted in his post. And the company provides its own quarterly security updates and bug fixes for its builds of OpenJDK, as well as out-of-band security and stability updates and bug fixes for Azure users. Azul contributes those fixes back to the OpenJDK community.

Azul has published a countdown clock on its Web site that is marking time until the end of free public updates for Java 8, which Oracle has set for January 2019. Additional information can be found on Microsoft's site.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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