Digital Edition

Sun Will Open-Source Java "Today, Tomorrow or Two Years Down the Road"
Sun Will Open-Source Java "Today, Tomorrow or Two Years Down the Road"

  • Breaking News - Sun: "Make No Mistake, We Will Open Source Solaris"
  • "Let Java Go" - ESR Writes an Open Letter to Scott McNealy
  • "Letting Java Go" - James Gosling in 2003 on Open-Sourcing Java
  • "Let's Collaborate on Open-Sourcing Java": IBM Writes Open Letter to Sun
  • Sun's Schwartz: IBM's Request "Seems a Little Bonky"

    No sooner did Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's dynamic president and COO, announce earlier this week the imminent open-sourcing of Solaris - from Shanghai, where Sun was unleashing its next wave of product and pricing innovation at its first-ever Asia-based SunNetwork conference - than another indication has been given of an intent to open up a Sun technology.

    Java, says the well-respected Java evangelist Raghavan 'Rags' Srinivas, will inevitably follow.

    The discussion has been running for several months, indeed years. 

    In February of this year, responding to Scott McNealy's remarks at Sun's February 2004 analyst meeting, Eric S. Raymond - President of the Open Source Initiative - wrote an Open Letter to McNealy. The letter ended:

    "Mr. CEO, tear down that wall. You have millions of potential allies out here in the open-source community who would love to become Java developers and users if it didn't mean ceding control of their future to Sun. If you're serious about being a friend of open source, if you're serious about preparing Sun for the future we can all see coming in which code secrecy and proprietary lock-in will no longer be viable strategies, prove it. Let Java go."

    But long before that, in June 2003, James Gosling - a co-inventor of Java, now CTO of Sun's Developer Platforms Group - expressed hesitancy:

    "I am certainly one of the people who would love to make it open-source. But it's hard for two reasons. One is that open-source ways of dealing with software work really well so long as you get this sort of collegial atmosphere. If you happen to have a bully on the block who is really strong, it really doesn't work. We have this history of having been victimized, and there are lots of people who are nervous about that."
    And in February 2004 when IBM wrote an Open Letter to Sun inviting them to collaborate on an IBM-Sun open-source implementation of Java, Jonathan Schwartz - then still EVP of Sun's Softare Group - commented:

    "We looked at the request, and our first question was, 'That seems a little bonky. Could you explain what it means?'"
    So the news from 'Rags' Srinivas that it will happen is certain to cause a new surge of interest in Sun and in Java among software developers worldwide, even though he didn't specify when - replying to that question, in an interview yesterday, "at some point it will might be today, tomorrow or two years down the road."
  • About Jeremy Geelan
    Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

    In order to post a comment you need to be registered and logged in.

    Register | Sign-in

    Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 2

    Every one who has ever done some serious Java work will (or should) agree with most of the remarks made sofar. Sad but true. Yet, Java is still growing becoming better with every release, it''s future looks better than ever.
    Is that a paradox?

    It makes perfect sense if Sun is doing this for the same reason Apple open sources the internals of Mac OS X.

    Allowing their users access to the source to Solaris-- even if the license is "poisoned" to prevent it from being mixed with GPLed code-- would help Sun''s users. They would be able to adapt the OS to strange fine-tuned uses and arcane hardware, or more easily debug kernel plugins. A shop that might otherwise have gone "well, we like solaris, but we don''t want to be limited to sparc and x86, so we''ll go with linux" might be dissuaded.

    Allowing their users access to the source to the JVM-- even under a GPL-incompatible license-- would do the same. It would allow Sun''s users to port the JVM to those few platforms Sun doesn''t support yet, or more easily debug JNI software.

    This is definitely a benefit for Sun''s users. It makes both Java and Solaris more attractive. It makes a lot of sense.

    Are there any "success stories" of proprietary software going open source? i guess the definition of "success story" is subject to opinion:

    Success for the releaser? (Sun)

    Success for the community?

    I think Java is fine the way it is. Open Sourcing it will not bring any improvements and actually might hurt Java. Name one advantage for Java going open source?

    CORRECTION: Sun will "hybrid-source" Java. This is hybrid-source not open-source. Please use the right term for the right software.

    Of course the opening of Java's source will be neat for "the community," but it doesn't seem like a very smart business move for Sun. There might be some temporary benefits in publicity, but no real benefits in the long run. Atleast if they keep it closed, they'll retain some control, and have the ability to possibly make money off of it.

    However, i'm sure they know this, and that's why it's not being released now, and it probably never will be, unless they somehow conjure up a way to release the source and retain complete control of it.

    ...Which seems impossible to me.

    Call me paranoid or even a conspiracy theorist, but what if Microsoft is behind this? What if Microsoft, as part of their settlement with Sun, asked them to open-source Java so that they could embrace and extend it, and pollute it as they tried to before?

    How much do you want to bet that Java will be open sourced under a BSD-style license, and not the GPL.

    I think that people who worry themselves over the ominous and supposedly inevitable "fragmentation" really need to take a second look at things.

    1-There are numerous examples of open source programming languages that have remained centralized and unfragmented, like Perl and Python.

    2-Because java depends on a uniform standard and VM, any attempts to split off or fork the source tree will die miserably due to a lack of compatibility with the massive pool of existing code and classes.

    3-In fact, there is actually LESS chance of fragmentation when Java lies in the hands of the public, first because it means that no one will start up a competing "openjava", a venture that would almost certainly lead to incompatibilities, and second because, as the example of the death of xfree86 shows, too much central and absolute control over software by a small group will inevitably anger developers and users alike, leading them to search for an alternative.

    The most annoying part of Java on Freebsd is that you are required to build the thing yourself due to all the restrictions. This wouldn't be such a problem but the Java libary gets larger all the time and gets to be a bigger chore just to install it. As I understand it this is due to licensing that only allows the Java on Freebsd developers to release patches with must be applied to the base source downloaded from Sun. If Java used a true open source license then this would no longer be a problem, because there would be no restrictions on redistribution of either modified source or binaries built from the modified version.

    Sun has this spooky, almost pathological, fear of forking. I guess you can attribute it to fallout from the proprietary Unix wars of the 80s and 90s. Thing is, those were a direct consequence of proprietary licensing. Everyone took the "historical Unix" code, put it in their own systems, and then chugged along incompatibly, with the new code hidden. The difference with GPL'd code is that if you use it, you have to publish it. So your rivals can copy or emulate incompatible features easily.

    GPL projects can fork, but the forks can dovetail back into one another. Proprietary projects that fork stay forked.

    Why is it that so many people feel the need to jump on Sun & Java? There are pleny of companies that have given less to their respecive industries.

    Yes, so Sun has decided to OS Java, a step that they said they wanted to do a while ago, but didn't want to see the language pulled apart while it was immature. Well, if they feel it's time then great. They did start it up, and pay for a ton of development, and do a lot of promotion. Did they benefit? You bet. They are a company, and after all hopeful dreams alone never get you anywhere. BSD, RPC, NFS, Java -- I can't wait to see what they come up with next. The're not the only ones with great solutions, but they have a good track record. Kudos.

    If you develop in java, you don't have to pay sun any money. Sun uses what they call a "protected source" license, which basically says, "Anyone can use this, but only we can make changes, or release new distributions."

    Open sourcing java wouldn't really hurt them, and god knows java could use it.

    This will be a great thing for Sun and the open-source community, but only as long as the source is licensed under a non-restricting license. I don''t think that is going to happen though. If it happen, all I can say is "rejoice!" :)

    It''s not nearly as big a deal as open-sourcing, say, Solaris, simply because it''s not going to wreck a primary revenue stream for Java.

    I''ve wondered for a while where Sun makes money from Java, particularly enough to recoup what they spend on it. I can''t imagine it affects sales of Solaris boxes that much.

    Sun has been saying that they will "somehow open source Java" since 1996. Has it happened? No. They changed their mind.

    Sun has also been saying that they will "somehow have Java standardized by a standard body" since 1996. Has it happened? No. They changed their mind.

    Sun like Java being owned completely by them, and they won''t change. What they will do is that they will fiddle with the Java source license a little an declare that it is now "open source", just like they created the "Java community process" and claim that it''s an "open process".

    You don''t have to worry about Java forking: Sun isn''t going to give up control. They are going to keep Java proprietary, and they are not going to "open source" it in any sense anybody other than they themselves would recognize.

    Feedback Pages:

    Subscribe to the World's Most Powerful Newsletters


    DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Dez Blanchfield joined the faculty of CloudEXPO's "10-Year Anni...
    "We started a Master of Science in business analytics - that's the hot topic. We serve the business ...
    The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelm...
    As DevOps methodologies expand their reach across the enterprise, organizations face the daunting ch...
    Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As au...
    The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news an...
    DevOpsSummit New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held Novemb...
    With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO an...
    DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, ...
    As you move to the cloud, your network should be efficient, secure, and easy to manage. An enterpris...
    DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing w...
    @DevOpsSummit New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held Novem...
    There is a huge demand for responsive, real-time mobile and web experiences, but current architectur...
    DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that "Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO" has announced that its ...
    Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will ...
    Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to ...
    "NetApp is known as a data management leader but we do a lot more than just data management on-prem ...
    We call it DevOps but much of the time there’s a lot more discussion about the needs and concerns of...
    The dynamic nature of the cloud means that change is a constant when it comes to modern cloud-based ...
    "Since we launched LinuxONE we learned a lot from our customers. More than anything what they respon...