The Brazilian government is pushing an effort to deliver an open-source version of Java that could put control of the platform into the hands of grass-roots developers around the globe and add fuel to the debate over Javas ownership.
In what is known as the Javali Project, Brazil is seeking to break free of the so-called vendor lock-in and gain control of its own systems technology, said sources close to the effort. Brazil was one of the first to mandate the use of open-source technology, where applicable, in government systems.
Bruno Souza, leader of the SouJava Java Users Group in Brazil, is actively involved with the 3-month-old project. He said Brazil is recruiting developers to help with the effort. SouJava is Brazils largest Java user group, with more than 12,000 members.
“The Brazilian government is very interested in open source,” said Souza of São Paulo, Brazil. “And for the right reason: freedom. The government is trying to get freedom from vendors and from lock-in. It is looking to open source as a way of promoting development and is promoting the usage, creation, modification and improvement of open source. Starting with Linux as the basis, but going as far as possible … even the implementation of a free JVM [Java virtual machine]—a free implementation of Java.”
The rollout of Javali, which is one of 10 open-source projects under development by the Brazilian government, including the JVM and class libraries, will be staggered, Souza said. “We would love to have a JVM by the end of next year,” he said. “It could change lots of things for us if we got this time frame right.”
Executives from Sun Microsystems Inc., which last week announced the availability of the new JS2E (Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition) specification, still feel, however, that Suns process ensures that Java works for everyone.
“We are releasing the J2SE source code for free, but we have a very strong compatibility environment that says if you are going to ship products on [J2SE 5.0], we ask that they be compatible,” said Graham Hamilton, a Sun vice president and fellow, who headed the J2SE 5.0 effort.
“The one sticking point between us and the open-source community is that we actually think that compatibility matters,” said James Gosling, vice president and fellow and the creator of Java for Sun, based in Santa Clara, Calif.
Advocates have plenty of reasons to champion an open Java; several, including IBM and Eric Raymond, an open-source luminary, called on Sun earlier this year to open Java. “There are already at least three open-source JVMs,” said Raymond, from Malvern, Pa. “The difficult problem is duplicating all the Java class libraries. A project that did that, and passed the Java conformance tests, would be big news.”
“Suns problems with Java have entirely been due to its unwillingness to submit Java to an international standards body,” said Michael Hines, an IT architect at a large Midwestern university.
Overall, what is good for Brazil could be good for all Java developers. “We want this to be a larger community effort,” Souza said. “This is not something we want to do alone. On the contrary, were trying to gather Brazilian developers to help and support the great Java open-source initiatives that already exist.”