September 13, 2001

Lutris backs off support of Open Source Enhydra, citing problems with Sun license

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -

Application server maker Lutris Technologies has pulled its support from the Open Source Enterprise Enhydra project because the company and Sun Microsystems haven't been able to agree on an Open Source version of Sun's Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition. However, a Sun spokesman says his company has no plans to give up controls on the compatibility between J2EE-based programs.

Late last week, Lutris released a statement saying it had stopped hosting the Enterprise Enhydra project at In the statement, attributed to Lutris president Yancy Lind and CTO Paul Morgan, Lutris says: "While we regret this action, it is necessary in order to satisfy J2EE licensing restrictions. J2EE has not been released as Open Source. We attempted for more than a year to get an Open Source compatible license for J2EE but have not been successful in this regard. While others
in the Open Source community may find violating the J2EE license an acceptable risk, as a company Lutris has a responsibility to protect its assets."

Lind and Morgan go on to say Lutris will concentrate its efforts on several other projects at not based on a Sun license and on its commercial projects, including Lutris Enhydra, a Java/XML application server.

David Harrah, group manager of Java public relations for Sun, says his company is committed to using the Sun Community Source License to insure that J2EE-based programs can work with each other. He disputes the news item submitted to NewsForge saying Sun had shut down Open Source J2EE. Sun didn't shut down any project, Harrah says, Lutris did.

"We have the capability for people to do within an almost Open Source manner, but we have never Open-Sourced the Java code," Harrah says. "Our argument would be that compatibility, as defined by the Java Community Process, is fundamental to Java. Everyone has to test for compatibility. Is that a large hurdle to get over? Yes, it is. Is it worth it to get over it? Yes, it is."

He adds: "The Java cup and steam brand does not go on a product until they have successfully completed the Java compatibility tests. Our experience has been in the last 18 months, customers are demanding that brand."

Open Source community objections have focused on the Sun license requiring compatibility testing for any software based on SCSL-licensed software. In effect, the SCSL allows a derivative work of the licensed software, but not a derivative work of a derivative work.

Keith Bigelow, Lutris' vice president of marketing, says the company started the Enhydra Enterprise project months before Sun began moving the J2EE application program interfaces to the SCSL in the fall of 1999, so this wasn't a case of Lutris suddenly being surprised by conflict with the Sun license. Bigelow says the two companies have been negotiating since April 2000 on an Open Source implementation of J2EE, but Sun hasn't backed away from the SCSL.

"We have been trying to negotiate nuances of the SCSL license that would allow us to maintain the Enhydra Enterprise project, but set up the project in such a way that it would not threaten the Sun Community Source License," Bigelow says. "Essentially, we wanted to have our cake and eat it, too. We wanted an Open Source J2EE project, but we wanted to make it compatible, and we didn't want it to be illegal for our customers to deploy it."

In addition, Lutris saw J2EE projects at other companies proceeding without Sun threatening to enforce the SCSL, Bigelow says.

"It's one of those tricky things that, in terms of the license, we acted in good faith," Bigelow says. "There was good reason for Lutris to believe we could negotiate, just as our competitors had done, around the sticking points of SCSL. What's in the printed license is not necessarily what Lutris will eventually sign; it's a starting point."

Lutris' decision to stop supporting the Enhydra Enterprise project was not prompted by a threat from Sun; instead, it recently became clear to Lutris that the Enterprise Enhydra project was close to releasing a product that would violate the Sun license, while the two companies had still not reached agreement.

"There's never been an animosity -- it's never been a 'thou shalt stop,' " Bigelow adds. "We have pressure from our largest customers to create a certified version of a J2EE app server. They want the reassurance it's both legal and compatible."

Bigelow says reading the specification for J2EE forces the reader to agree to the SCSL, so while the relationship between Lutris and Sun remains strong, Lutris employees felt they were put in a Catch 22 while investigating whether to use J2EE. "The SCSL license clearly says you can an implementation for research and development purposes, but you cannot create a version for deployment ... In order for us to license, we must sign SCSL; the moment we sign SCSL, we must cease and desist from from the redistribution of source and binary of an incompatible platform."

Bigelow says he doesn't want to "throw rocks at Sun." He adds: "They obviously have spent millions, if not billions, in developing J2EE and creating that brand. Fundamentally, we have to accept that they need to make money, and they do that by licensing J2EE to us."

On Monday Lutris released press release on the start of the Enhydra Micro Edition project, which builds on Sun's J2ME platform, which uses the Sun Community Source License. But Bigelow says Lutris isn't using SCSLed APIs for this project; instead, it's building a new application server on top of J2ME. No Sun documents have described how such a server would work yet, he adds.

"We very much have learned our lesson over the last 14 months," Bigelow says. "We are doing nothing with the EnhydraME project that threatens the Sun Community License. There are no APIs that exist on J2ME that are covered by any Sun license."

In the original Lutris announcement about the project, Lutris officials urged developers to keep working on Open Source parts of the project. Bigelow says several pieces of the Enterprise Enhydra project will remain Open Source, even if the J2EE parts will not. From the announcement: "Enhydra will continue to be supported, but at
a lower priority than these commercial efforts. We do not have a new release of Enhydra currently planned. That being said, the Enhydra application server is an open source project. That means that you -- the developers who use it -- have the ability to effect new releases by writing code and submitting it."

Asked about the frequent criticism that Sun is lukewarm about Open Source, Harrah mentioned Sun's contributions to the Gnome project, its StarOffice for Linux office suite, and its implementations of Java for Linux.

"Sun has, from the very beginning of the company, made most of its source code available," Harrah adds. "We have not necessarily done in every case what Linux did, which is to take Open Source implementations and allow other Open Source implementations. But if you go as far back as the mid-80s, we released the network file system to the community of Unix programmers."

He continues: "On the spectrum of Open Source vs. closed source ... we are far closer to the Open Source community than someone like Microsoft and, dare I say, IBM. We've taken it right up to the edge, as far as we can, with Java. But there continues to be a control point over the technology that is there to insure that everything that says it's Java is compatible. I don't know how else to do that; if someone can tell us how to do that without opening the barn door to incompatible implementations, we'd love to hear it."


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