Sun Hires Python Experts

The company is beefing up its support for the dynamic language with the hiring of two leading Python developers.

Sun Microsystems is hiring two expert dynamic language developers particularly versed in the development of the Python and off-shoot Jython languages.

James Gosling, vice president and Sun Fellow, announced March 3 as part of his keynote at Sun Tech Days in Sydney that Ted Leung, an Apache Software Foundation (ASF) member and long-time Python developer at the Open Source Applications Foundation (OSAF), and Frank Wierzbicki, lead implementer of the Jython project, will become Sun employees.

Jython is an implementation of the Python language on the Java Virtual machine (JVM), and the two new hires will be working full-time on Jython and paying particular attention to developer tools, Sun officials said.

Leung and Wierzbicki join other technologists, such as Ian Murdock, Charles Nutter, Thomas Enebo and Nick Kew, who have recently joined Sun to pursue open-source project development and community activities. Murdock is the founder of the Debian Linux project, Nutter and Enebo are lead developers on the JRuby effort to create an implementation of Ruby on the JVM, and Kew is involved in a variety of ASF technologies and is working on OpenSolaris at Sun.

Over the past couple of years, Sun has been making a major investment in Ruby technology and its community. Now the company wants to do the same with a variety of technologies, such as Python and Jython, Sun officials said. JRuby is running successfully today on the Java platform, with performance generally better than the most widely deployed C-language version, Nutter said during a presentation at the Lang.NET conference on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Wash., in January. Jython has been running for years, and has been deployed in production in a variety of applications.

Meanwhile, Sun is working on an effort known as the "Da Vinci Machine" project, which is working on changes to future releases of the Java platform to make it an even better host for dynamic languages, said John Rose a Sun engineer and lead of the Da Vinci Machine project, who also spoke at Lang.NET. According to Sun officials, they said the Java platform is bigger than just the Java language, and they support giving developers a choice, so Sun is planning to support multiple languages on the Java platform.

Sun has made investments in Ruby and JRuby, and even offered contributions to the Ruby on Rails community. In addition, Sun has included Ruby and JRuby tooling support in its open source NetBeans IDE (integrated development environment) as well as its optimized runtime environments GlassFish and Solaris - with JRuby and Ruby, respectively, Gosling said. The company hopes to make similar investments in the Python technology and community, Sun officials said.

They said that while the company expects that Jython will have a role to play, just as JRuby does, Sun will use native Python and will invest in its growth. As for Python and Jython support in NetBeans, Sun officials said stay tuned.

Python is a dynamic object-oriented programming language that is used for many kinds of software development, from Web to desktop applications, running on a spectrum of operating systems as well as virtual machines. Python offers high developer productivity and ease of integration with other languages and tools and enjoys an avid user community.

Sun is following Microsoft in supporting popular dynamic languages such as Python and Ruby to run on the companies' core application platforms and hiring the talent to get it done. Microsoft hired Jim Hugunin to bring Python to the .Net Framework with his IronPython implementation, and the software giant also hired Ruby expert John Lam to bring Ruby to .Net in a project known as IronRuby.

Meanwhile, Sun is a platinum sponsor in the upcoming PyCon 2008 conference, the annual conference on Python development. Sun officials said the company recently submitted an application for membership in the Python Software Foundation (PSF).