java licensing

Oracle Java SE Licensing vs. Free Versions

Oracle Java SE Licensing vs. Free Versions

  • Oracle Java SE Licensing:
    • Support: Includes commercial support and regular updates.
    • Advanced Features: It offers a Java Flight Recorder, Java Mission Control, and an Advanced Management Console.
    • Cost: Subscription-based, e.g., $15/employee/month for 1-999 employees.
    • Use Case: Ideal for enterprise and mission-critical applications.
  • Free Versions (e.g., OpenJDK):
    • Support: Community-supported, no commercial support.
    • Features: Core Java functionalities without advanced commercial features.
    • Cost: Free to use, no licensing fees.
    • Use Case: Suitable for development, testing, non-critical applications, and educational purposes.

Java remains one of the world’s most widely used programming languages, powering everything from enterprise applications to Android apps.

As such, understanding the differences between Oracle’s licensed Java SE and free versions of Java is crucial for developers and organizations alike.

This article comprehensively compares Oracle Java SE Licensing and free versions of Java, highlighting the key features, benefits, costs, and use cases.

Oracle Java SE Licensing

Oracle Java SE Licensing

Oracle’s Java SE (Standard Edition) Licensing offers a comprehensive and robust environment for developing and running Java applications.

Here’s an in-depth look at the features and implications of Oracle’s licensing model:

Key Features:

  1. Comprehensive Support:
    • Oracle provides commercial support, including regular security updates, performance enhancements, and bug fixes. This support is crucial for mission-critical applications where stability and security are paramount.
  2. Advanced Features:
    • Licensed versions of Oracle Java SE include advanced features such as Java Flight Recorder (JFR), Java Mission Control (JMC), and Java Advanced Management Console (AMC), which are essential for monitoring, managing, and optimizing Java applications.
  3. Long-Term Support (LTS):
    • Oracle offers long-term support for specific versions of Java SE, ensuring that businesses can rely on a stable and supported environment for several years. This includes extended periods of support for critical updates beyond the initial release.


  • Oracle Java SE is licensed based on the number of employees in an organization. The cost is tiered, with pricing decreasing as the number of employees increases. For example, organizations with 1-999 employees pay $15 per employee per month, while those with over 50,000 employees can negotiate custom pricing.

Use Cases:

  • Enterprise Applications: Ideal for large enterprises where application stability, security, and long-term support are critical.
  • Mission-Critical Systems: Suitable for systems that require continuous uptime and robust support.
  • Development and Production Environments: Provides comprehensive tools and features for development and production use.

Free Versions of Java

Free Versions of Java

Several free versions of Java are available, including OpenJDK and distributions from various vendors. These versions offer a cost-effective alternative to Oracle’s licensed Java SE but offer different features and support options.

Key Features:

  1. OpenJDK:
    • OpenJDK is the official reference implementation of the Java Platform, Standard Edition, and is available under an open-source license. It includes all the core functionalities of Java SE but lacks some of Oracle’s commercial features.
  2. Vendor-Specific Distributions:
    • Various vendors, such as AdoptOpenJDK, Amazon Corretto, and Azul Zulu, provide their distributions of OpenJDK. These distributions often include additional optimizations, platform-specific enhancements, and varying levels of support.
  3. Community Support:
    • Free versions of Java typically rely on community support rather than commercial support. This can be sufficient for non-critical applications but may not meet the needs of enterprise environments.


  • Free versions of Java, including OpenJDK, are available at no cost. This makes them attractive for startups, educational institutions, and small to medium-sized enterprises with limited budgets.

Use Cases:

  • Development and Testing: Ideal for development and testing environments where cost savings are important.
  • Non-Critical Applications: Suitable for applications that do not require the advanced features and commercial support provided by Oracle.
  • Educational Purposes: Great for educational institutions and students who need access to Java for learning and experimentation.

Key Differences and Comparisons

Java's Global Usage

1. Support and Updates:

  • Oracle Java SE: Offers commercial support, including regular updates and security patches. Long-term support versions ensure stability over several years.
  • Free Versions (e.g., OpenJDK): Rely on community support and contributions. Updates and security patches are available but may not be as timely or comprehensive as Oracle’s offerings.

2. Advanced Features:

  • Oracle Java SE: Includes advanced features like Java Flight Recorder, Java Mission Control, and Advanced Management Console, which are essential for monitoring and optimizing applications.
  • Free Versions: These advanced commercial features are not included in free versions, limiting their use in environments requiring detailed monitoring and management.

3. Licensing Costs:

  • Oracle Java SE: Requires a subscription based on the number of employees, which can become costly for large organizations.
  • Free Versions: Free to use, making them cost-effective for smaller organizations or non-critical applications.

4. Use Cases:

  • Oracle Java SE best suits enterprise applications, mission-critical systems, and environments requiring long-term support and advanced features.
  • Free Versions: Ideal for development, testing, non-critical applications, and educational purposes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What is the main difference between Oracle Java SE and OpenJDK?

  • A1: Oracle Java SE includes commercial support, regular updates, and advanced features like JFR and JMC. OpenJDK is open-source and free, providing core Java functionalities without Oracle’s commercial features and support.

Q2: Can I use OpenJDK for commercial applications?

  • A2: Yes, OpenJDK can be used for commercial applications. However, it lacks the commercial support and advanced features of Oracle Java SE.

Q3: How do I determine which Java version to use for my business?

  • A3: Consider factors like the criticality of your applications, the need for commercial support, budget constraints, and the requirement for advanced features. Oracle Java SE is ideal for mission-critical applications, while OpenJDK is suitable for less critical or budget-conscious environments.

Q4: What are the costs associated with Oracle Java SE licensing?

  • A4: With tiered pricing, Oracle Java SE is licensed based on the number of employees. For example, organizations with 1-999 employees pay $15 per employee per month, while larger organizations have lower per-employee costs.

Q5: Are there any other free Java distributions besides OpenJDK?

  • A5: Yes, other free distributions include Amazon Corretto, AdoptOpenJDK, and Azul Zulu. These distributions often include additional optimizations and support options.

Q6: What happens if I don’t update my Oracle Java SE subscription?

  • A6: If you do not renew your subscription, you will lose access to updates, security patches, and commercial support. This can leave your applications vulnerable to security risks.

Q7: Can I switch from Oracle Java SE to a free version like OpenJDK?

  • A7: Yes, you can switch to OpenJDK or another free distribution. However, you will lose access to Oracle’s commercial features and support. Ensure that your applications are compatible with the new distribution before switching.


Choosing between Oracle Java SE and free versions like OpenJDK depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Oracle Java SE offers robust support, advanced features, and long-term stability, making it ideal for enterprise environments and mission-critical applications.

On the other hand, free versions provide a cost-effective solution for development, testing, and non-critical applications.

By understanding the differences, costs, and use cases, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your business goals and requirements.


  • Fredrik Filipsson

    Fredrik Filipsson brings two decades of Oracle license management experience, including a nine-year tenure at Oracle and 11 years in Oracle license consulting. His expertise extends across leading IT corporations like IBM, enriching his profile with a broad spectrum of software and cloud projects. Filipsson's proficiency encompasses IBM, SAP, Microsoft, and Salesforce platforms, alongside significant involvement in Microsoft Copilot and AI initiatives, enhancing organizational efficiency.

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