Sun Microsystems open-source strategy, or what some see as a lack of it, and its refusal to open-source Java have come under question again, this time by a former staffer who left Sun to start his own company.
Peter Yared, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based ActiveGrid, has posted an open letter to Sun President and Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Schwartz on his Weblog, asking for some clarity on the Santa Clara, Calif., companys open-source software strategy and questioning why it was fine for Sun to open-source Solaris and StarOffice but not Java.
Yared, who was chief technology officer at NetDynamics when it was acquired by Sun in 1998, became chief technologist for Suns application server division, before becoming chief technologist for network identity and leaving in 2003 to start ActiveGrid, which provides an SOA (service-oriented application) platform built on the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Python/Perl) software infrastructure stack, points out that there has been a lot of momentum around LAMP in the industry.
“The P languages in LAMP—PHP, Python and Perl—are all open source, and each provides their own virtual machine. It would be ideal if the Java Virtual Machine was open source so that open-source projects like PHP could use it. In turn, Java would be much more competitive with .Net, which supports numerous languages out of the box,” Yared says in the letter.
He then asks Schwartz to answer, “with a single coherent sentence that people can remember and repeat because if I ask five Sun employees this question, I get five different answers,” why is it good to open-source Solaris and StarOffice and bad to open-source Java?
“So having simple answers to these questions will clearly help your own workforce as well as your customers and prospects,” he quips.
Yared goes on to answer the question himself (Sun declined to respond to either the content of the open letter or the pivotal question it contained). However, a Sun spokesperson did offer eWEEK a briefing on the companys Java strategy closer to its JavaOne conference in San Francisco in May.
Commenting on Suns refusal to respond to his open letter, Yared said Java has had a historically bad relationship with Linux and open source, which has led to the popularity of the LAMP stack. “It is disappointing that Sun refuses to even comment on an opportunity to mend that fence and welcome the open-source PHP, Python and Perl communities to Java,” he said.
But Schwartz has expressed his views on the question of open-sourcing Java before, including in this lengthy eWEEK interview on the topic.
Schwartz also infuriated Linux supporters by claiming that Suns JCP (Java Community Process), which oversees Java, is truer to the ideal open source described in Eric Raymonds open-source movement bible, The Cathedral and the Bazaar. But Raymond does not see it that way.
For his part, Yared said the standard Sun answer is that Java will get fractured and that the JCP is great, but that thinking does not stand up because Solaris and StarOffice have not been fractured since being open-sourced.
“Most of the Java innovation nowadays also came from open-source projects like Spring and Hibernate, not the JCP, which then has to re-create all of these open-source projects,” he said.
In an earlier interview with eWEEK, James Gosling, the creator of Java as well as a Sun fellow and chief technology officer of its Developer Products group, was asked if there would ever be a fully conformant open-source implementation of Java SE from Sun, but his response was open ended.
“Well, there are lots of different answers. One is, Beats the hell out of me. You never know what the future will bring. … If you look at the way that we interact with the community, the way that we have all of our sources out there, we have a lot of people from the community that contribute the way any open-source projects do. Really, the major thing thats an obstacle to truly being open source is the nits in our license about testing. And having our license require testing disqualifies us from the religious blessing of the open-source community,” he said.
Asked about the possibility that someone else could do it, Gosling said that while that is a possibility, he does not think it would make a whole lot of difference. “When you look at the J2ME world, there are dozens and dozens of compatible, interoperable JVMs out there. But of course they all do the testing. We have a test suite, and they all run that. And like the Harmony folks at Apache, they say theyre going to run through the tests. If they do that, thats OK,” he said at that time.
But Yared maintains that sharing a single virtual machine would be good for Java and good for LAMP, and would combine two of the three leading development platforms, making them both more competitive against .Net.
“So whats up? Can you guys let go a bit and let us all share a single VM?” he concludes in his open letter to Schwartz.
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