IBM to Sun: Open Up Java

IBM is calling Sun Microsystems Inc.'s bluff and asking the Java steward to join in developing an open-source implementation of Java.

IBM is calling Sun Microsystems Inc.s bluff and asking the Java steward to join in developing an open-source implementation of Java.

The Armonk, N.Y., company made the proposal in an open letter to Sun last week. Sun officials said they planned to meet with IBM to discuss the merits of working with IBM on an independent project. "Sun is closely evaluating the effectiveness of the process," a Sun official said.

"IBM has been calling on Sun for years to open up Java because it will spur innovation," said an IBM official. "Now IBM is throwing down the gauntlet."

Rod Smith, vice president of emerging Internet technologies at IBM, sent the letter last week to Rob Gingell, Suns chief engineer, vice president and fellow. Citing as the catalyst an eWEEK interview with Suns chief technology evangelist, Simon Phipps—in which Phipps asked, "Why hasnt IBM given its implementation of Java to the open-source community?"—Smith said IBM is ready to work with Sun on an open-source Java.

In the letter, Smith wrote: "I am convinced that the creation of an open-source implementation of the Java environment would be of enormous importance to the developer community and our industrys collective customers. It would open a whole world of opportunity for new applications and growth of the Java community."

Earlier this month, open-source advocate Eric Raymond called for Sun to create an open-source imple- mentation of Java. In an open letter to Sun CEO Scott McNealy, titled "Let Java Go," Raymond called on the company to relax its control over Java so open-source developers could take advantage of it.

"Suns terms are so restrictive that Linux distributions cannot even include Java binaries for use as a browser plug-in, let alone as a stand-alone development tool," Raymond said.

Rick Ross, president of Javalobby Inc., a Java developer organization, also wrote to Java developers. Ross open letter, "No Sun Is an Island," also took issue with Suns control of Java.

Meanwhile, Sun is maintaining its position that IBM is demanding open-source concessions of Sun that it doesnt meet itself.

When asked whether IBM would be as willing to create open-source versions of its OS/390 or z/OS, Bob Sutor, IBMs director of WebSphere infrastructure software, said, "Were not suggesting Sun open-source its directory software or proprietary stuff. Java is already in the [Java Community Process]. It is already a community process that many people have contributed to. Its a mistake to look at it as though Sun is the sole author, and this is not any of their proprietary products."