An Offer Sun Can Refuse

IBM may be playing the open source card with Java, but Sun should hang on to its ace in the hole. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, says's Steve Gillmor.

My colleague Steven Vaughan-Nichols makes a good case for Sun Microsystems, Inc. open-sourcing Java. He votes with "an unequivocal yes" while at the same time acknowledging that chances are slim Sun will go along with IBMs kind offer to encourage Sun to do the right thing.

But before we all join hands and go happily bounding down the Blue Brick Road, lets take a closer look at whos offering what, and why. Although IBMs Rod Smith was the author of the original open letter to Suns Rob Gingell, IBMs director of WebSphere Infrastructure Software Bob Sutor was deployed to press the initiative.

"We need an absolutely official open-source implementation of Java," Sutor told eWEEKs Darryl Taft. This is the same Bob Sutor, who, as IBMs point man in the Web Services –Interoperability initiative, found a million ways to "Just Say No to Sun involvement" in the IBM/Microsoft-dominated standards body.

Of course, the WS-I only jelled when Sun was finally allowed to be elected to the board; Sun software chief Jonathan Schwartz is proud to point out that Sun was the first to implement the WS-I stack in its Java Enterprise System. But Schwartz is blunt about IBMs standards motives this time around in an exclusive conversation. "They actually need for Sun to be removed from the process so that only they can then wrest control of the technology upon which the industry is dependent."

The process hes referring to is the Java Community Process (JCP), which IBM has long sought to remove from Suns control. "We are interested in insuring compatibility and driving the standards--because standards drive competition," Schwartz says. "Were not interested in allowing any one vendor to split the market and drive it for their exclusive benefit."

Next page: Open Source or Open Standards?