Sun Open-Sources More J2EE Tech

The company will continue its project to release the Java Enterprise System stack under the CDDL, but some analysts predict a lukewarm reception.

Sun will release this week components of its Java Enterprise System technology stack to the open-source community under the Community Development and Distribution License.

To be released are Sun Microsystems Inc.s Enterprise Service Bus implementations, based on the communitys Java Business Integration specification, and its Java Systems Application Server.

These moves, which will be announced at the annual JavaOne conference to be held in San Francisco this week, are part of Suns commitment to making all the components of its Java Enterprise System technology stack available under an open-source license over time.

The Santa Clara, Calif. company currently uses a project code-named Glass Fish to make the Sun Java System Application Server Platform Edition 9 available under the JRL (Java Research License).

That license grants some access to source code but does not allow full open-source privileges, like the permission to redistribute the software or use it outside of research projects.

The project will, from this week, be fully available under the open-source CDDL, John Loiacono, Suns executive vice president for software in Santa Clara, Calif., told eWEEK. The CDDL is not compatible with the GNU GPL (General Public License) under which the Linux kernel is licensed.

This will not include the reference implementation of the application server, as that is still owned by the Java community itself, "But this is our implementation of the community J2EE specification and our implementation of that will be available," Loiacono said.

Just "throwing the code over the wall and making it available is not interesting to me," he said, adding that building a supportable community behind it and creating a unified format and infrastructure to build open communities on is what would drive it to the next step.

Asked about the CDDLs incompatibility with the GNU GPL, Loiacono said Sun believes the CDDL was the most appropriate license to use for this particular technology because of its flexibility, indemnification and ability to integrate with many other licenses.

Eric Raymond, co-founder of the OSI standard and a consultant in Malvern, Pa., said of the CDDL: "We approved it, but I dont like it much. [Its] yet another corporate vanity license."

But, to be clear, Sun is not doing away with the Java Community Process or the current licensing models. "This is just our implementation, our application server, that we are open-sourcing. Were not telling the community what to do. This is a Sun play rather than a community play," Loiacono said.

Sun, which created Java, has long tried to make its Java Application Server more popular and dominant, as the server has lagged behind products from rivals IBM, BEA Systems Inc. and JBoss Inc. In fact, in 2003, Sun even started giving away the basic Java Application Server Platform Edition for free.

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However, some observers criticized the move. "So, Sun gives away the J2EE reference implementation, and they give away the Sun app server platform edition (which is I believe identical to the J2EE reference implementation), and they still cant get anyone to use it," said Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst with Burton Group Inc.

"Now theyre trying to open-source it. Sounds like they are throwing dead code to the open-source community," she said, noting that the industry already has three open-source Java application servers—JBoss, Jonas and Geronimo. "I dont think we need another open-source J2EE implementation."

Joe Keller, vice president of Java Web services and tools at Sun, said from here on Sun would drop the "2" in referring to Java, and that the technology will be known as Java Platform Enterprise Edition or "Java EE" instead of J2EE.

Keller also said he believes Suns application server is "challenging BEA for the top slot of app servers."

JBoss CEO Marc Fleury called Suns news "irrelevant" and scoffed at the Sun license. "What are they going to do now?" he said. "Fight it out for second place? With IBM? Oh, this is going to be fun. You have Sun, a company that could never release (or re-release or re-re-release for that matter) a successful app server, versus IBM, a company that never understood mass-market software distribution."

Sun plans to continue to release components in the Java Enterprise System stack to open source over time, and, having started with the base foundation of Solaris, is now moving up the stack. Open-sourcing the Java Enterprise Service Bus will "fuel the community to participate at a higher level," Keller said.

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But Eric Newcomer, chief technology officer at Iona Technologies PLC in Waltham, Mass., which last week announced its own open-source ESB project named Celtix, said Sun faces challenges in not going far enough with its open-source efforts.

"What bears watching is the challenge confronting Sun in deciding how best to respond to the pressures to open-source Java and relax their control over it," Newcomer said. "The community is unlikely to be satisfied with half measures."

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