June 27, 2005

Commentary: Sun continues slow walk toward open source Java

Author: Chris Preimesberger

SAN FRANCISCO – Talk about meek little baby steps. But at least Sun
Microsystems is stumbling in the right direction. On Day 1 of JavaOne X
here at the Moscone Center, the company indicated how strategic it
considers the open source community by announcing right off the bat that
it will soon open the code for its Java System Application Server 9.0 and
its Java System Enterprise Server Bus.The app server and server bus will be released under the Open Source
Initiative’s Common
Development and Distribution License (CDDL)
, the same one being used
for OpenSolaris. However, this latest project -- called GlassFish, after a fish so
clear-skinned that its skeleton is visible -- still puts heavy restrictions
on the way the code ultimately can be used.

Section 2.1(d) of the CDDL states:

Notwithstanding Section 2.1(b) above, no patent license is granted: (1)
for code that You delete from the Original Software, or (2) for
infringements caused by: (i) the modification of the Original Software, or
(ii) the combination of the Original Software with other software or

So Sun, as license steward, is off the patent license hook if renegade code results that does not conform to the letter of the license. As long as the modified code is shared correctly, as either a commercial or non-profit product, Sun will stand behind it.

The application server also will be made available under the new Java
Research License, which lets developers reconfigure code for academic and
research use.

This is a decisive move -- for Sun, that is -- toward the company’s
ultimate goal: opening all the Java 2 Enterprise Edition code for all
developers, foreign and domestic. But there is no way that will happen anytime
soon. There are many contractual strings attached. But Sun does have a
clear -- albeit slow-moving -- protocol in this regard.

Last November, the struggling Santa Clara, Calif.-based
hardware/software/services giant announced
that it would open the code for the upcoming Solaris X release and then
made good on the promise, releasing it on Feb. 1. OK, fair move – for
Solaris developers. In January, the company said
it would open the code for its spiffy new DTrace tool
, a new framework
for troubleshooting a network and tuning system performance in real time.
Never mind that it comes with Solaris X; it can be used in other systems,
too. Another fair move.

On May 13, Sun graciously gave its blessing to a special task force from
the Apache Software Foundation to build
its own open source edition
of the standard version of Java, J2SE. A
daunting task, to be sure, but Sun gave the team the thumbs up and wished
them well.

Sun President Jonathan Schwartz told the crowd of developers in his JavaOne
opening keynote that sharing the Java application server code is
“truly a multi-billion dollar market opportunity,” and added that all
software would ultimately trend toward free and open source.

Sun last month began a $50 million advertising campaign to revamp its
brand, which is its biggest brand revamp ever. The company used some of its
clients, including eBay (EBAY) and General Motors (GM), to show how its
services help connect people and businesses.


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