As many people know, the most current Java Release Family is Java 6.6. It was made available to the general public back in December 2006. Java 7 - Codename Dolphin is in beta, but the development community is expecting it to be released sometime in 2008. With the introduction of the new, it is also time to say goodbye to the old. The Java 1.4 family will reach its End of Service Life (EOSL) this year, in October 2008. This means that that release family will no longer be supported by Sun, nor will they distribute the SDK or JRE anymore. Similarly, Sun announced in April that the EOSL for Java 5.x will be in October of 2009.
What does this mean for companies still developing against Java 1.4 or Java 5.0?
If you are still using a Java 1.4x version, it might be time to cut the cord. Let’s face it, we’ve known since Java 6 was released in December 2006 that it would be phased out. Most major vendors have made the switch to Java 5, so it will quickly become more work to maintain a java 1.4 application than it would be to upgrade it. The same cannot be said for Java 5.0 though. The adoption of Java 6 has not come as quickly as Java 5, and many major players don’t support it yet.
Fortunately, Sun recognized that some businesses required longer periods of support and maintenance, and have provided us with a solution. The Java SE for Business Release Families is a relatively new product subscription model that is designed to more than double Sun’s support periods for releases. Customers using older release families, such as 1.4 or 5, who wish to continue to do so can subscribe to the Java SE for Business version to continue receiving critical reliability, availability and security updates from Sun. With retirement support, this can extend the support period of Java 1.4 all the way to 2018. Support for Java 5.0 can be extended to 2019.
Granted, this is a subscription service, so there is a charge associated with it. To continue to use the freely distributed and supported versions of Java, customers should upgrade when feasible.