J2EE Is Becoming a Completely Open-Source Play

Opinion: Ready or not, even Sun is acknowledging that Java 2 Enterprise Edition's prospects lie in open source. And thanks to that, J2EE's future may be getting brighter than ever.

Once upon a time, and it wasnt that long ago, the Java development business revolved around selling Java 2 Enterprise Edition servers.

That was then. This is now.

Sun Microsystems announced Monday that it is moving its Sun Java System Application Server Platform Edition 9 from the JRL (Java Research License), aka the GlassFish project, to its more open-source friendly CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License).

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about Suns Common Development and Distribution License.

For those of you who dont follow Java developments endless series of code and project names, this move essentially means that Sun is open-sourcing its J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) 5 server.

But putting aside the arguments that the CDDL is a vanity open-source license and its incompatibilities with the GNU GPL (General Public License), does anyone care about yet another open-source J2EE?

By my count, there were already three of them: the Apache Foundations Geronimo, JBoss JBoss Application Server, and the ObjectWeb Consortiums JOnAS. Sun isnt starting a party; its joining one.

At the same time, Iona, a small but important object programming firm, has joined up with ObjectWeb to further J2EE open-source goodness.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about Ionas open-source ESB project.

Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst at Burton Group Inc., said she thinks Sun is doing little more than "throwing dead code to the open-source community." But I see something more significant happening.

I think Sun is slowly realizing that even though CEO Scott McNealy wants to stay in Javas driver seat, the company has to loosen its control of J2EE. Like it or lump it, J2EE and its associated tools are becoming a completely open-source play.

Even BEA Systems with its popular J2EE server, WebLogic, is embracing open source with its support of Apaches open-source Struts and Spring, which are server-side J2EE programming frameworks.

My colleague Sean Gallagher said a few months back that the days of proprietary J2EE were numbered.

It looks to me like Sun agrees.

This isnt just a Sun matter, though. Open source is changing everything about J2EE and, along the way, the entire business of software development. From here on out, services—and not sales—will be the only way anyone will make money from enterprise-level J2EE development.

At the same time, shifting to open source will only continue to speed up J2EE server and tool development. With open source, more and more developers will devote their time to advancing the J2EE code base.

Of course, that could mean that Sun may lose control of the JCP (Java Community Process). But it could also mean that, thanks to Microsofts .NET Framework 2 compatibility problems, Sun and the other open source-powered J2EE vendors will have a chance to win back more of the enterprise middleware business from Microsoft.

Open source changes everything. That can be very scary. But if you embrace the change, you can win with it, and I think thats what Sun and the other J2EE companies are trying to do.

Will it work? Stick around, and well see how it goes.

eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way. He can be reached at sjvn@ziffdavis.com.

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