Java devs abhor Oracle's plan to kill private APIs

Key Java proponents are up in arms over the planned elimination of private API capabilities, specifically sun.Misc.unsafe, in the upcoming Java Standard Edition 9 release.

Although an officially unsupported API, sun.misc.Unsafe provides benefits like access to native memory, surpassing the limitations of the Java heap, said Hazelcast CEO Greg Luck in an interview last Friday. Hazelcast leverages the API in its in-memory data platform, enabling development and management of large caches of data, and has participated in the Java Community Process for amending Java.

"Basically, what's happened is that hundreds of companies now rely on this private API to get their job done with Java," said Luck.

Oracle has proposed eliminating access to the API as part of the modularization of Java. Proponents of eliminating it believe it should never have been used anyway because it was never a standard part of Java, Luck explained. The API can potentially bring instability into the JVM and cause data corruption; it should only be used by expert developers, Luck said.

A working group proposal is afoot to standardize the safe parts of the API, with the unsafe parts retired. Hazelcast is participating in this effort along with companies like Azul Systems. But Oracle is not listening, according to Luck. "If you remove this, you would kill a lot of infrastructure software that actually has now come to rely on it," Luck said. Java performance monitor DripStat's blog even refers to the removal of sun.misc.Unsafe in Java 9 as "a disaster in the making" that could "completely destroy the ecosystem around Java." Oracle declined to comment Friday when asked about the elimination of private API access.

One option to avoid the issue would be to simply stick with Java 8, the current release and not upgrade, Luck said. Java 9 is due in 2016. Users, however, would find themselves on an older and eventually unsupported version of the platform.


Paul Krill

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