What is Java LTS and Why Does It Matter?
At one time, Oracle only released new versions with major updates and changes in the JDK. Now we have a much more regular cadence with new Java versions being released every six months. Each of these releases contains a handful of new features and bug fixes. Every handful of releases, however, Oracle introduces a new Java LTS, or long term support, version.
In this blog post, we’ll cover:
- What is Java LTS?
- Which Java Versions Have Long Term Support?
- Why Should Java LTS Matter For My Organization?
- How Frequently Are Java LTS Versions Released?
- Final Thoughts
A Java LTS version, or long term support version, is a Java version that will remain the industry standard for several years. Oracle has released new Java LTS versions include Java 11, Java 17—and as of September 2023, Java 21.
The focus of each JDK release is not as oriented toward features as it had been in the past. Now, releases are now much more focused on stability and support. Each long-term release of the JDK is supported by Oracle for 4 years, while the short term releases are only supported for 6 months.
As a part of its long term support policy, Oracle offers quarterly bug fixes and version support for an extended duration. Intermediary semi-annual releases between major Java LTS releases are supported for a shorter duration. For this reason, Java LTS versions are considered more stable for enterprise use.
This support and release cadence is based off the release cadence of Mozilla Firefox but has been adjusted to meet the specific needs of the Java user base. In January 2019, Oracle made sweeping changes to licensing requirements for Java SE (Oracle’s JDK runtime). Up until that point, more that 70% of commercial Java applications used the Oracle JDK JVM. Given this pricing structure shift, more and more organizations are exploring supported builds of OpenJDK Java runtimes.
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Which Java Versions Have Long Term Support?
The following Java versions currently have long term support per Oracle’s support roadmap:
Java 11 was released in September 2018; premier support ends in September 2023 and extended support will terminate September 2026.
Java 17 was released in September 2021 and is slated to receive premier support through 2026 with extended support sunsetting by September 2029.
Java 21 will be released in September 2023 and marks an increasing cadence in Java LTS versions. Java 21 is scheduled to receive premier support through September 2028 and extended support through September 2031. With the rollout of Java 21, Oracle will terminate support on Java 20, making Java 8, Java 11, Java 17, and Java 21 the only currently supported JDK runtimes.
💎 Discover the hidden gems of Java 21 in this webinar on September 13.
Why Should Java LTS Matter For My Organization?
Long term support matters for organizations because these Java versions are more stable and receive regular bug fixes. Organizations don’t have time to update Java runtimes every six months, nor should they. And according to our 2023 Java Developer Productivity Report, they aren’t. That survey of Java shops found that:
- 31% are still running Java 8
- 28% are running Java 11
- 17% have upgraded to Java 17
- And the remaining 22% are running a Java version that does not have long term support
Moreover, 25% of respondents said that long term support influences their decision to upgrade, outweighing features. Given these stats, many organizations see the value of Java LTS versions.
Hungry for more stats around what versions, frameworks, and IDEs your Java development peers are using? Download the 2023 Java Developer Productivity Report.
How Frequently Are Java LTS Versions Released?
That’s a good question, and the quick answer is: It’s changing.
In September 2021, Oracle proposed shifting the cadence of Java LTS releases from every three years to every two years. With the release of Java 21 in September 2023, that shift is coming to fruition.
For conservative Java development shops, an every-three-year cadence for Java LTS versions is ideal. But developers pressed Oracle for a shorter long term support cycle as they move to incorporate modern tools and techniques. The two-year cadence seeks to answer those requests.
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