March 17, 2004 6:40 AM PST

Sun reluctant to make Java open source

BOSTON--Sun Microsystems is reluctant to make Java source code available through an open-source model because it would encourage incompatible versions of the software, Sun's top software executive said.

During a press briefing here Tuesday, Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's executive vice president of software, indicated that the company is not inclined to take up IBM's offer to work with Sun to make Java technology open source because of concerns over compatibility.


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Schwartz and other Sun executives also revealed details on the company's product plans, including upcoming Linux and Windows versions of the Java Enterprise System, more closely linked security products, and a management console for converting Microsoft Office macros to the Java Desktop System. Sun confirmed plans to offer per citizen pricing for its bundles of Java software to countries in developing nations.

Rod Smith, IBM's vice president of emerging technology, last month sent an e-mail, which was distributed to the press, to Sun Vice President Rob Gingell urging Sun to make Java open source. IBM executives said that making at least a portion of Java software open source would help make Java easier to distribute with Linux and would generally promote its usage among developers.

An IBM representative said last week that the company was hoping to meet in the next few weeks with Sun to discuss the matter. Schwartz on Tuesday said that the two companies are in ongoing discussions but have yet to talk over IBM's proposal.

Schwartz said the general public license (GPL) that governs many open-source applications encourages "forking," or a divergence among the different distributions of the software. He cited the example of Red Hat becoming the de facto distributor of open-source operating system Linux in North America.

"Java is the antithesis of forking. It's about compatibility. That compatibility is of supreme importance," Schwartz said.

He said that Sun does not want to re-create a situation in which there are different and incompatible versions of Java, as is the case with Linux. "We're not going to repeat the mistakes we've seen in the past," he said in an interview with CNET News.com on Monday.

Schwartz also noted that people who stick to Sun's licensing terms and maintain compatibility with Sun standards can have access to the Java source code. Changing the licensing to an open-source model would encourage different implementations, he said.

"If IBM wants to allow incompatible implementations, I've seen that movie. It's called 'Microsoft licenses Java from Sun.' It forked the Java community, set us back years, and is now the subject of intense antitrust litigation. I'm not going to let that happen," Schwartz said, who called IBM's request "kind of weird."

By ensuring compatibility through the Java standardization process, Sun intends to ensure that developers can write a Java application and have it run on many different operating systems and devices, he said.

On Wednesday, IBM said it is committed to maintaining Java compatibility and asserts that this can be achieved in an open-source development model. The company pointed to existing open-source projects, such as Tomcat, which drive adoption of Java programming while maintaining adherence to standards. "With Sun's support, an open-source Java will increase the adoption of Java and maintain compatibility," IBM said in a statement.

What's in store for Java
At the press briefing on Tuesday, Sun executives said the company plans to release a Linux edition of its Java Enterprise System in the next 60 days. Sun charges $100 per employee per year to use the product, which is a bundle of Java server software. Windows and HP-UX versions of the Java Enterprise System are expected to be completed by the end of the year, executives said.

The company also is adding in remote diagnostics capabilities that will allow Sun, with a customer's permission, to fix problems over the Internet. Early diagnostic tools are already in version 2 of the Java Enterprise System and will be expanded over the course of the year, said Steven Borcich, executive director of Java enterprise system and security.

Borcich said that in the next 60 days Sun will detail how it plans to meld its current identity management products with the software it gained from its acquisition of Waveset Technologies. Ultimately, the identity management software will be integrated with Sun's N1 Grid technology to allow companies to provision resources, such as bandwidth or processing capacity, based on groups of people within companies, he said.

By the end of the year, Sun will release enterprise and standard editions of the Java Application Server 8, server software that is a component of the Java Enterprise System. Version 8 uses the Java 2 Enterprise Edition 1.4 specification, which allows companies to run Web services applications.

In April, Sun will begin an early evaluation process for its Java Studio Creator product, a Java programming tool aimed at rapid creation of Web applications.

Joe Keller, vice president of marketing for Java Web services and tools, said that Sun has had some discussion with the newly formed board of Eclipse about the open-source development project's work with the Java Tools Community. He said that Sun wants to better understand Eclipse's goals and is waiting to name an executive director before renewing any discussion regarding Sun's participation in Eclipse.

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Bad-mouthing open-source
Dear Mr. Schwartz:
Here are a couple of questions for your eloquent demeanour to consider:
1. How are you countering the threat of .NET? Or are you content with burying your head in the sand that this threat will blow away? *wink* like all the other threats from M$ *wink*
2. Why are you bad-mouthing open-source? Its the GPL that has allowed you to redeem some of your company's pride by riding on the Sun JDS which is nothing more than Sun-crippled Suse Linux! So, please don't make the GPL out to be a mistake ... although seeing your support for SCO its pretty obvious why you say that ...
So, stop shooting off your mouth and try to do some ground work before the M$ .NET juggernaut runs over Java and its (admittedly) glorious past and present.
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Sun(tm) takes ideas from others, credits self
I have watched the development of the Java Language for a long time. Although most is not, part of the language is a unique invention of Sun(tm) and its employees. I know this because I have studied the features of the Java Language, and I have noticed were such ideas have orignated beforehand.

Xerox P.A.R.C. employees worked on a language that had many ideas that Java now implements, yet the makers of Java claimed the invention.; look at LambdaMOO, for example. The language is like change in dialect. That is not all.

I have worked on a system, atomatrix.sourceforge.net , for longer than the Java Language was first published. I noticed many details of the Atomatrix system also implemented into the Java Language. I do not use the Java Language, so I do not get any ideas for it.

Why would a company claim the creditials that they mastered the Java Language to a level that actually included previous implementations done outside of the company by individuals that do not work for Sun(tm)? I expect that the answer would include the reason why Sun(tm) does not release the source code; they don't want to lose their creditability. "They don't reveal their sources."

What happened is that the systems that were built before the Java Language was published were hot stuff at the time. Sun(tm) decided to put the pieces together and hire employees to complete the details of state-of-the-art virtual machines. Of course, they took the market and advertised. I know I can to improve Atomatrix at the low-level well beyond what the Java Language currently handles. Of course, I do not have the employee force to write all the details like Sun(tm). The systems that were hot stuff quickly ate the dust.

Now, Sun(tm) is unable to keep up the to the latest object orientated technologies. They have to keep that "supreme compatibility" issue as their priority. That is also their downfall. I have seen systems that make the Java Language not even look like a object orientated language. Sun(tm) continues to press its model as "the object orientated language" -- at least until the sources are seen.
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Java - The Best of Both Worlds!
Java is the best of both worlds - It is Free, invovles a community process to grow the language and has the quality control of a major IT company.

It works with Windows, UNIX, LINUX and tons of smaller PDA/Cell phone type devices. What could be better?? .NET w/C# is a cheap (for now) knock off of OO and Java. It might be there in a few years but ask yourself if you believe in LINUX why would you ever advocate for .NET?? The M$ plan to tie me to a Windows OS for life?

Java does provide access to the source as was pointed out in the article. The language does in fact grow and adapt through the Java Community Process (JCP). I think Java would survive a move to the open source (GPL) license model but what is in it for Sun or its customers? Sun has spent large amounts of time and money as was pointed out in other postings, marketing the brand, since it is a free distribution the only thing they really get back is the name recognition of the brand (I don't think enough Java logo hats are ever sold to make up the difference -BTW). SO What's wrong with Free Code and consistency? My job is tons easier not having to worry about what implementation of Java to code for. Version control is pretty good, Security is a major feature and the release schedule makes sense. Sun being the lead for Java is like having a good facilitator and note taker at a meeting. I like having a person to do that work but I rarely want to be that person.

Just because Sun doesn't follow everyone else's lead in swooning over Open Source, doesn't make them bad. Besides if they did that Java wouldn't be around in the first place.
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Java is already open source
Java is already open source Sun have published the source of the Java API's for ages. Just check the jdk on your machine and look for src.jar. It may not publish the source for its JVM but that is irrelevant most of the time since the idea of java is that you can change your JVM with out even having to recompile. The source for Sun's JVM or IBMs' or BEA etc will be different but should not matter since they must all conform to the spec.

How often do open source linux developers use the C code to an application compared to how often they bug fix the kernel or gcc to get an app to work, it is the same issue. The JVMs work developers don't need to know how, the API's source is there to help developers. I regularly look into the java API source, I have never wanted to look into the JVM source.
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