Sun's Open-Source Outreach Met with Mixed Emotions

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2006-05-16 Print this article Print

Boston-based Aberdeen Group Analyst Stacey Quandt told eWEEK she thinks Sun is heading in the right direction.

"Suns Distro License for Java is a significant step in fostering greater collaboration between the Java community and the GNU/Linux community," Quandt said.

"More importantly, the ability for community-developed and supported versions of Linux to support Suns Java SE 5.0 JDK and JRE will increase the number of Java applications supported and developed on Linux.

"This opens Sun's door to new customers who will appreciate the opportunity to decrease costs and increase the choice of Linux distribution providers.

"As a result, we will see a new swatch of community-supported Java applications on Java. At the same time, the license protects against fragmentation of the Java standard. ... Yes, of course Sun could have created this level of openness between Java and GNU/Linux, but it is not too little, and it is not too late," Quandt said.

Principal Analyst Dave Rosenberg of the Open Source Development Lab in Beaverton, Ore., told eWEEK, "I applaud Sun's philosophy to open-source all of its software, but the community is asking for Java. Until Sun open-sources Java, their open-source credibility flag will still fly at half-mast."

Rosenberg said he is pleased that Sun is making it easier for Linux distributions to include the newly opened Java components, but he doesn't think it will be viewed as a panacea -- merely a stopgap measure.

"I would also argue that Sun had to do this or risk total irrelevance in respect to Linux," he said.

"Historically, Sun has done well at building community, but this continuous cycle of open-sourcing software that people aren't begging for feels more like desperation than it does strategic or beneficial to the community.

"While it's great to have the code for people to use, these projects/community efforts are only partially relevant," Rosenberg added.

Stephen O'Grady, an open-source IT analyst with Red Monk, in Denver, told eWEEK that he believes Sun is continuing down the path toward all of its software being open source -- but that this effort still hasn't convinced some people.

"One of the common complaints about Java from a Linux distribution perspective is that the licensing was such that it was one of the few pieces of software that could not be included in package repositories," O'Grady said.

Former Sun executive calls for Sun to open-source Java. Click here to read more.

O'Grady also mentioned that unlike PHP, Ruby or Mono, Java could not be downloaded and installed seamlessly, and that the user had to visit Sun's Web site, click through a EULA, and then download the package and place it in a specific location.

"Some will definitely contend that anything short of open-sourcing Java is too little, but, frankly, the DLJ move will address at least one of the major concerns with respect to open-sourcing Java."

Longtime open-source advocate Bruce Perens of Berkeley, Calif., a former consultant to Hewlett-Packard and other companies, cast a suspicious eye on the moves.

"This strategy is intended to take some of the wind out of the sails of Free Java efforts like GNU Classpath, the four or five open-source Java VMs, and GCJ, the GNU Java compiler," Perens told eWEEK.

"Sun intends to provide a good-enough JDK in the hopes that developers will put less effort into its fully open-source competition. But I think the developers will easily see through this. They'll continue their efforts."

A big part of IBMs and HPs strategies has been to use open source to devalue Sun's ecosystem, Perens said, adding that Sun's forte has always been systems programming, and that now there is a very dedicated open-source developer community intent on making systems programming a commodity.

"This means that Sun must always be ambivalent regarding open source," said Perens.

"Thus, we see Sun making contributions to open source followed by some event in which Jonathan Schwartz bad-mouths open source and blows Suns credibility with the developer community, or something like Sun's patent contract with Microsoft in which they essentially promise not to defend independent OpenOffice developers if Microsoft sues them.

Perens noted that the open-source developer community has never been sure that they can trust Sun.

"Given the bind Sun is in, I'm sure we [still] can't trust them," he said.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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