Java SE for Business, Software Longevity

I noticed Sun’s “Java SE for Business” today. You pay money and you get 15 years of support for each release family, plus some advanced tools for updating desktops. Dealing with old versions of the JDK/JRE now has another option, instead of the two classics: paying staff to upgrade everything, or doing nothing and risking security & support problems.

15 years boggles my mind, though. I often joke that technology years are worse than dog years, as far as obsolescence. 15 years for a technology is 105 years in some other industries. As I think about it, though, this is pretty cool. Especially since technologies like virtualization remove reasons to upgrade.

I have always used hardware replacement cycles to push OS replacement cycles. Red Hat Enterprise Linux has a seven year lifespan, and my hardware lives three to five years, so it’s always meshed up pretty nicely. Get new hardware and put the latest OS on it. If the app folks don’t like or can’t use the latest & greatest we can put the last OS version on it instead. We’ll get a shot at replacing everything again in a few years, so no worries.

Now that virtual machines are killing the hardware replacement cycle I’m left with only my software lifecycles, which really aren’t all that much better than hardware cycles. If those get longer, and I can guarantee an operating environment for 15 years, the amount of staff time and effort it takes to maintain these operating environments will drop rapidly. I’ll be able to upgrade when it makes more business sense for me, like when I’m replacing an application, or I decide it’s too much work to support 7 different versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Not just when a vendor decides they’re done with an OS.

Having more control of my own destiny and more options always makes me happier, and as virtualization takes over I’m glad to see Sun taking a step in the right direction.