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The 3 Hidden Risks of Unsupported, Free Java

It’s been more than 2 years since Oracle required subscription-based licensing for Java 8 and 11 support, the versions in production by the majority of Java users. 

Throughout this realignment, some enterprises embraced support, either from Oracle or from alternative providers, while others chose free versions. Now that enterprises have had some experience with unsupported OpenJDK versions or expensive support from incumbent Oracle or challenger OpenJDK distributors, enterprises should understand risks of unsupported OpenJDKs.

This is the first blog in a series, investigating the hard lessons learned (and costs paid) by enterprises on unsupported OpenJDK versions.

Who doesn’t like free?

We all love to get something for nothing, particularly when we’ve been used to free candy.

Since the advent of Oracle subscription- based licensing that explicitly ruled out Java’s commercial production use without paying, enterprises have had to choose between:

  • Paying high Oracle licensing fees for the pleasure of keeping the status quo
  • Using an OpenJDK distribution with an annual support subscription (not from Oracle)
  • Using a free OpenJDK distribution and getting community updates and patches only, but no support. 

Before you stay on or move to a free version, carefully weigh the benefits and costs. You need to consider the predictable benefits of free OpenJDK distributions against the high and very unpredictable costs of them.

The risks of a free, unsupported OpenJDK are related to:

  • security,
  • compliance, and
  • intellectual property issues.

All these, of course, impact operations and ultimately your whole organization.

So how much can you afford these risks?

It is imperative to know the risks. This way, you can best assess how your free OpenJDK use cases relate to your organizational risk.