Open-Source Guru Says JCP Is Too Closed

A member of the Apache Foundation open-source community organization says the Sun-led JCP actually stifles competition in some ways.

LAS VEGAS—While Sun Microsystems Inc. moves to open-source its Solaris operating system and releases key patents in a nod to the open-source community, the company still takes a rap for hampering open source in other ways.

At TheServerSide Java Symposium here Friday, Jason Hunter, a member of the Apache Foundation open-source community organization, said the Sun-led JCP (Java Community Process), which manages the process of developing and revising Java technology, actually stifles competition in some ways.

"The JCP does not believe in free markets," Hunter said.

Hunter, who has been Apaches representative to the Java Community Process Executive Committee, said he knows of "a lot of examples of JSRs [Java Specification Requests] being voted down because of competitive threats."

Hunter explained that "the spec lead has full authority" over the JSRs and "you could have a 10 to zero vote, but if the spec lead says no, it doesnt matter." He said he thinks giving one person complete authority is wrong. Hunter said that more often than not a Sun employee is the specification leader, but he criticized the overall process, not just Sun.

IBM has experienced similar criticism for its participation in the open-source Eclipse Foundation, where IBM employees make up the majority of those looking to add technology to the Eclipse platform.

This week at EclipseCon 2005 in Burlingame Calif., Lee Nackman, chief technology officer at IBM Rational Software, said that is changing as more and more new members join the foundation. But he said IBM never unduly influenced the process, even though some observers had that impression.

"I think that competition is good," Hunter said. "But what youre going to get is competition through open source."

Hunter wondered if the JCP will continue to dictate the direction of Java technology, "or is open source going to dictate the direction?"

Moreover, although the JCP says that it doesnt produce standards but rather specifications, Hunter noted that many of those specifications do get in J2SE (Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition) and J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition), which are standards.

"Im not a fan of Microsoft [Corp.]s ability to bundle something with the operating system and kill competition, and Im not a fan of Sun bundling something with SE or EE and killing competition," he said.

Meanwhile, Hunter said he believes Java will eventually go open source.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about the possibility of an open-source Java.

"It will go open source in that it will allow an open-source implementation of all the JSRs," he said.

He also said that Sun will get involved. "Once they see it happening, Sun will say, Oh my, theyre doing it," and then Sun will get involved."

Hunter said the Apache Jakarta Project, which hosts a number of key open-source projects, is gaining more popularity among developers.

"We see Jakarta being more important," Hunter said. "The talks these days are not about JCP technologies; theyre about open-source technologies."

A year ago this month the JCP launched the latest version of the JCP, version 2.6, which JCP officials called "the most transparent and accessible iteration in the programs evolution to date."

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