Sun Releases Tiger Alpha Code Early

Java developers will have access to alpha J2SE code sooner than expected.

Sun Microsystems Inc. has made an overture to Java developers in what amounts to the "open sourcing" of a key Java upgrade.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company has agreed to open the alpha builds of its long-awaited J2SE (Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition), code-named Tiger, to developers for testing much earlier than anticipated.

Sun was forced to make such a move after a Java developer late last month posted a message to about an exclusive Sun developer program that provides early code to developers creating products supporting the Java platform. The program, known as CAP (Compatibility Access Program) and set up to handle about 20 developers, was quickly deluged with requests following the Javalobby post, sources said.

Rick Ross, president of Javalobby Inc., a Cary, N.C., organization that promotes Java development, said hundreds of Javalobby members swarmed Sun looking to obtain early J2SE 1.5 builds. As a result of the Javalobby response, "Sun is going to deliver early access to J2SE 1.5 probably 60 to 90 days before it would otherwise have become available," Ross said. "Sun has done something clearly responsive to developer input."

Neal Gafter, a Sun software engineer responsible for producing early-access releases, said CAP is not "intended as a mechanism for providing public alpha releases of the platform. Rather, its a mechanism for vendors of existing products to test for and alert us to compatibility problems exposed by their products. It is more focused on testing existing features rather than new features."

Joe Keller, Suns vice president of Java Web services and tools, said: "We got swamped with requests, and we werent ready to go to that many people. Well revamp [CAP] and build a release that can handle that."

J2SE 1.5 will add technology from ongoing Java Specification Requests that promise to simplify the language in four areas: ease of development, monitoring and manageability, scalability and performance, and XML and client-side Web services support, Sun officials said.

"The Java community will receive this as an important improvement in the openness of Javas development," said Osvaldo Doederlein, technology architect at Visionnaire Informatica S.A., in Curitiba, Brazil, and a Javalobby member. "General access to alpha-stage builds is very welcome, as enthusiasts can actually influence the release if they send high-quality feedback to Sun; in the beta stage, its typically too late for input on features, and all thats left for testers is to finger bugs."

One developer, who asked not to be identified, said the process amounted to "forcing Sun to open source" its testing, but Javalobbys Ross sees it differently. "Hats off to Sun," he said. "Lets hope they can set their fears aside and take similar steps in other areas."