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IBM Backs Open-Source Java Project

IBM is participating on a limited basis in Project Harmony, the Apache Software Foundation's effort to create a compatible, independent implementation of Java Standard Edition 5 under the Apache License.

IBM has reportedly dedicated a single employee to the project. The company is limiting its immediate involvement to contributing design ideas but could contribute code in the future, IBM's Rod Smith, VP of advanced technology, says.

Announced last May, the Harmony Project is focused on creating a community-developed modular virtual machine and class library architecture to allow independent implementations to share runtime components and allow independent innovation in runtime components.

The Apache Foundation sent out a call for code contributions to the Harmony Project at this summer's JavaOne conference. "There is a lot of software out there that we are hoping can be donated," Geir Magnusson Jr., the foundation's director, told conference attendees. "We are hoping that we will get seeded with some code from exiting production virtual machines."

IBM has been a strong advocate of open-source Java and a vocal critic of Sun Microsystems, which developed and controls the Java programming language and refuses to relinquish its stewardship. Last February, Big Blue went so far as to publish an open letter urging Sun to open source Java.

Despite growing public pressure, Sun has refused to open source Java, citing concerns about the likelihood that such a move would lead to a fragmentation of the technology.

But the company did recently change some of the rules in the Java Community Process, opening the door for an open-source alternative. Sun allows independent implementations of the Java SE specifications but requires that they pass rigorous requirements tests before they can call themselves Java compliant.

"We believe that there is broad community interest in coming together to create and use an open-source, compatible implementation of J2SE 5, the latest version of the Java 2 Standard Edition specification," Magnusson says.

IBM is the first name-brand software vendor to back the Harmony Project officially. The company recently purchased Gluecode Software, an open-source startup that created a product called JOE, which packages Apache's Geronimo application server with other open-source products to create an enterprise portal. Magnusson was VP of Products at Gluecode. He is now an independent software developer.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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