Sun Taking Open-Source Counsel?

Sun is listening to strong recommendations from IBM and another industry advocate that it enlist Java in the open-source movement.

Sun Microsystems Inc. appears to be seriously considering industry advocates proposals that it should offer an open-source implementation of Java.

In addition to an impending meeting with IBM—which called on Sun to think about open-sourcing Java—Sun has been in contact with open-source advocate Eric S. Raymond on the very same issue, according to Raymond.

Raymond last month sent an open letter to Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy titled "Let Java Go," calling for Sun to open-source Java. Not long afterward, Raymond said, a Sun official contacted him to discuss his views on how Sun might better work with the open-source community regarding Java.

In an interview with eWEEK, Raymond, of Malvern, Pa., who is author of the open-source classic "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" and co-founder and president of the Open Source Initiative, said he wants to discuss with Sun an overall strategy for offering an open-source Java.

Raymond proposed that Sun "issue the Java reference implementation under an open-source license. But they keep control of the brand; they keep control of the testing; they keep control of the verification; they keep control of the certification."

When the work is complete "they retain the right to say this and only this" that Java has passed Suns compliance tests and its guaranteed interoperable with everything else, Raymond said.

Sun has considerable credibility with the open-source community, even above companies such as IBM, which has expended a great deal of time, money and effort working with the open-source community, because of its Unix history and its focus on engineering, Raymond said.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBMs general manager of e-business on demand, in an interview with eWEEK said, "We have been very sensitive to be good citizens [of the open-source community]. If you want to be accepted you have to show up with your best and brightest. It has been a good relationship, but we work very hard at it."

A couple of weeks after Raymond sent his letter to McNealy last month, IBM followed with an open letter from Rod Smith, IBMs vice president of emerging Internet technologies, to Rob Gingell, Suns chief engineer, saying IBM is ready to work together with Sun on an open-source Java implementation. The two companies are set to meet on the matter over the next few weeks, an IBM spokeswoman said.

A Sun spokesman said the company has gotten in touch with Raymond about his ideas. "I do know that Sun is interested in Erics feedback on open-source issues in general, and we responded quickly to his letter," the spokesman said.