Sun to Meet IBM Over Open-Source Java

In response to an open letter from IBM, Sun plans to meet with Big Blue to discuss jointly developing an open-source version of Java.

In response to an open letter from IBM asking Sun Microsystems Inc. to join the company in developing an open-source version of Java, Sun plans to meet with IBM to discuss the issue, Sun sources said.

Sun officials planned to meet with IBM as early as Thursday to discuss the merits of whether the company should work with IBM on an independent project to create an open-source implementation of Java.

According to Sun, the company is in agreement with IBMs letter in many ways—and over the last two years Sun has made "significant" Java contributions to open source through The Apache Group; portions of the XML processing engine, through the Web Pack contribution last year; and the Java 2 Enterprise Edition processing engine known as Tomcat. "Sun is closely evaluating the effectiveness of the process," a Sun spokesperson said.

Sun said it will make an official statement about IBMs offer later on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Bob Sutor, IBMs director of WebSphere Infrastructure Software, in an interview with eWEEK, said, "We need an absolutely official open-source implementation of Java."

/zimages/6/28571.gifTo read the full interview, click here.

Sutor said IBM is not trying to change things right away. "Were trying to walk before we run on this," he said. "Were not looking for the world on Day One."

But what IBM is offering is "to put people on this and to donate source code."

Sutor said IBM has proven its open-source mettle with its experience with the Eclipse open-source Java-based development platform, its success with Linux, and work the company has done with Apache.

In addition, Sutor said an open-source Java implementation will spur innovation and help generate revenue for developers. "This would be a boon for Linux," he said. "If every Linux distribution had a full implementation of Java, it would spur innovation. The money is not in this base-level plumbing, its in what you add on top."

When asked whether IBM would be as willing to create open-source versions of its OS/390 or z/OS, Sutor said: "Were not suggesting Sun open source its directory software or proprietary stuff. Java is already in the JCP [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."

Moreover, on the issue of Sun ceding control of Java should an open-source implementation surface, Sutor said: "Theyll have less control, but they speak very highly of Linux," noting that Linux is not controlled by any one vendor but many benefit from it. "This is the logical next step in progressing the platform."

Next page: IBM throws down the gauntlet.