Top 5 Java Distributions: A Comprehensive Comparison and Our Top Pick

top java distributions

Java is one of the most widely used programming languages in the world, and it’s essential to have the right Java distribution for your projects. The standard edition of Java, known as Java SE, comes in various distributions, each with its unique features, costs, and installation processes. This article will explore the top five Java distributions, compare their features, explain their installation, and provide an opinion on which we think is the best.

1. Oracle JDK

Starting with the most recognizable name in the Java community, Oracle JDK (Java Development Kit) is the official, Oracle-supported distribution of Java. It’s been the go-to choice for many developers over the years.

Features

Oracle JDK is feature-packed, offering robust performance, excellent security, and high scalability. It also comes with commercial features like Flight Recorder and Mission Control, which are useful for profiling and monitoring applications.

Cost

Oracle provides Oracle JDK free for personal, development, and testing purposes. However, for commercial use, there’s a fee that depends on the number of users or processors. As of my last update in 2021, the cost is $25 per month per processor for servers and cloud instances, and $2.50 per month per user for desktops.

Installation

Installing Oracle JDK is straightforward:

  1. Visit the Oracle JDK download page.
  2. Accept the license agreement.
  3. Choose the version suitable for your OS (Windows, Linux, macOS).
  4. Run the installer and follow the instructions.

Oracle JDK is an excellent choice for large-scale, enterprise-level applications, particularly if you can leverage its commercial features. However, the costs associated with commercial use might be a barrier for some users.

2. OpenJDK

OpenJDK, also known as Open Java Development Kit, is a free, open-source distribution of Java SE. It’s maintained by Oracle and the open-source community.

Features

OpenJDK offers almost all the features available in Oracle JDK. It’s fully open-source, and its code is available for developers to modify and build upon. However, it doesn’t include the commercial features of Oracle JDK.

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Cost

OpenJDK is completely free for all types of use, including commercial applications.

Installation

  1. Open your terminal.
  2. For Debian-based Linux distributions, use the command: sudo apt-get install openjdk-11-jdk.
  3. For Red Hat-based distributions, use the command: sudo yum install java-11-openjdk-devel.
  4. For Windows, you can download the .zip file and add it to your system’s PATH.
  5. For macOS, use Homebrew: brew install openjdk@11.

OpenJDK is a great choice for developers who want a free, open-source distribution of Java. It’s also preferable if you want to contribute to the development of Java itself.

java distributions

3. Amazon Corretto

Amazon Corretto is a free, multiplatform, production-ready distribution of OpenJDK by Amazon.

Features

Amazon Corretto provides long-term support that includes performance enhancements and security fixes. Amazon uses Corretto for its own services, which speaks to its reliability and robustness.

Cost

Amazon Corretto is entirely free, including for commercial use.

Installation

  1. Visit the Amazon Corretto download page.
  2. Choose the version suitable for your OS.
  3. Run the installer and follow the instructions.

Amazon Corretto is an excellent choice for those looking for a cost-free, reliable, and robust distribution with long-term support. It’s particularly suitable for businesses that rely heavily on AWS.

4. AdoptOpenJDK

AdoptOpenJDK is an open-source distribution that provides prebuilt OpenJDK binaries. It’s maintained by the community and sponsored by several organizations, including Microsoft, IBM, and Red Hat.

Features

AdoptOpenJDK provides two versions: HotSpot and OpenJ9. HotSpot is the standard JVM, while OpenJ9 is a JVM version optimized for small memory footprint and fast startup, ideal for cloud deployments. AdoptOpenJDK also offers long-term support releases, ensuring stability for your production applications.

Cost

AdoptOpenJDK is entirely free for all types of use.

Installation

  1. Visit the AdoptOpenJDK download page.
  2. Choose your desired version and JVM (HotSpot or OpenJ9).
  3. Download the installer suitable for your OS.
  4. Run the installer and follow the instructions.

Opinion

AdoptOpenJDK is a solid choice for those who want a variety of JVM options and long-term support for their applications. It’s also a good option if you want a prebuilt OpenJDK binary that you can quickly start using.

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5. Zulu OpenJDK

Zulu is a free and open-source distribution of OpenJDK provided by Azul Systems. It offers a wide range of Java versions, making it a versatile choice for developers.

Features

Zulu provides all the standard features of OpenJDK. It offers both long-term support (LTS) and medium-term support (MTS) releases. Additionally, Zulu offers a commercial version, Zulu Enterprise, that includes extra support services and more frequent update releases.

Cost

Zulu OpenJDK is entirely free for all types of use. The commercial version, Zulu Enterprise, comes with a cost that varies based on the support level and number of systems.

Installation

  1. Visit the Zulu OpenJDK download page.
  2. Choose your desired version.
  3. Download the installer suitable for your OS.
  4. Run the installer and follow the instructions.

Zulu is a great choice for developers who want more flexibility in terms of Java version selection, as well as the option for additional commercial support.

Final Thoughts: Which is the Best?

The “best” Java distribution depends heavily on your specific needs, resources, and the nature of your projects.

For enterprise-level applications with the requirement of commercial features and official support, Oracle JDK is an excellent choice. For open-source enthusiasts and developers who want to contribute to the Java platform, OpenJDK is a great choice. Amazon Corretto is a reliable and cost-effective choice, especially for businesses heavily reliant on AWS. If you want a variety of JVM options and long-term support, AdoptOpenJDK is a solid pick. Lastly, for flexibility in Java version selection and the option for additional commercial support, Zulu is your go-to.

In terms of overall balance between cost, feature set, long-term support, and adaptability, Amazon Corretto stands out. It offers robust performance, long-term support, and is entirely free, even for commercial use. However, remember to consider your individual project or business requirements before making a final decision.

Choosing the right Java distribution is a critical step in your software development journey. Hopefully, this article has provided you with the information you need to make an informed choice. Happy coding!

For More Information

  1. Oracle JDK: https://www.oracle.com/java/technologies/javase-jdk11-downloads.html
  2. OpenJDK: https://openjdk.java.net/
  3. Amazon Corretto: https://aws.amazon.com/corretto/
  4. AdoptOpenJDK: https://adoptopenjdk.net/
  5. Zulu OpenJDK: https://www.azul.com/downloads/zulu-community/

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