Vendors Debate Perks of an Open Java

"You haven't even described to me the problem for which you said open source is a solution," Sun president Jonathan Schwartz snaps during the JavaOne panel, which included leaders from IBM and CollabNet.

SAN FRANCISCO—What was billed as a possible rumble turned out to be little more than a discussion among rivals, as industry leaders and observers debated the merits of open-sourcing Java at the JavaOne Conference here Thursday.

Included in the panel were Java creator James Gosling; Rob Gingell, chief engineer at Sun Microsystems Inc.; Rod Smith, an IBM fellow and vice president of emerging technologies; Brian Behlendorf, founder and chief technology officer at CollabNet Inc.; Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford University; Justin Shaffer, vice president and chief architect at MLB Advanced Media LLP; and James Governor, principal analyst at RedMonk LLC.

In some ways, it was Smith who actually jump-started this debate, or at least accelerated it, when he wrote an open letter to Suns Gingell in February inviting Sun to join IBM in creating an open-source implementation of Java.

During the panel, Gingell got a chance to respond publicly to the overture. "So, what does the verb to open-source mean?" he asked. "If open source is an answer, please tell me the problem?"

In an interview after the panel, Jonathan Schwartz, Suns president and chief operating officer, said Gingells response was right on, adding, "You havent even described to me the problem for which you said open source is a solution."

/zimages/2/28571.gifLinux & Open Source Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols thinks Sun and IBM need to quit their squabbling over who is more open source. Click here for more.

Shaffer, the only end-user representative on the panel, echoed Gingells sentiments, essentially saying if it aint broke, dont fix it.

"What is it that youre really trying to accomplish?" Shaffer asked. "Why take something thats already working and working well and put it at risk?" he added, to loud applause from the large crowd.

The crowds size indicated developers interest in the open-source issue, as last-day keynote addresses typically are not as well-attended as earlier ones.

A key point of the Java open-source discussion revolved around compatibility, with all on the panel calling it paramount.

"The fundamental promise is that Java programs will not be lied to by things claiming to be Java," Gingell said.

"Java is not just about compatibility and thinking about parts of Java to open-source," IBMs Smith said. "Look at J2SE [Java 2 Standard Edition], open-source it; open-source the TCKs [technology compatibility kits] around it."

As the world has seen open source evolve, "Were hitting an interesting inflection," Smith said. "We want to see an open-source Java married with other open-source projects."

Next Page: The merits of peer review.