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Open source Java not Sun's only OSS anno at JavaOne

Headline-grabbing news at the 11th annual JavaOne developer conference, which wrapped up on Friday, was CEO Jonathan Schwartz's announcement that long-time conference sponsor Sun Microsystems would release its industry-standard Java programming language under an open-source license—eventually.

When and under what circumstances Sun will finally open source Java remains to be seen, but the company made some definitive, if less splashy, open-source announcements at the show that are likely to have a greater immediate impact.

Among the most talked about was Sun's new Linux-friendly license, the Operating System Distributor's License for Java, a license that allows Linux and OpenSolaris distros to take the binary bits from the JDK and repackage them as appropriate for those open-source operating system platforms, explains Richard Sands, community marketing manager for Sun's Java SE Platform.

“Our old license essentially prevented Linux distros from shipping,” Sands tells AppTrends. It was “written in the 90s when there were people who wanted to embrace, extend and crush Java. The license was very protective, and it worked, but it had some inadvertent side effects, such as Linux distros couldn't ship it.”

Sun developed the new license in collaboration with developers from the Debian and Ubuntu distributions of GNU/Linux.

“We entered into a dialog with people in the Debian and Ubuntu communities,” says Sands, “and we did the license iteratively, consulting with them along the way. And then, once we had the license in place, we did the same thing on the packaging code. And people got very excited. We simply couldn't have done this—we could not have made the JDK that available on Linux platforms—without this collaboration, without adopting the collaboration model wholeheartedly. Actually, I think the way we developed the license is more exciting that the license itself.”

The DLJ is compatible with the GNU General Public License v2 (GPL), which governs Linux, and Sun's own Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), which governs the OpenSolaris OS.

Sun announced that it would distribute the Java Standard Edition 5 runtime under the DLJ. The new license allows distributors to ship the Java SE 5 Java Development Kit (JDK) and Java Runtime Environment (JRE) as installable packages for their operating systems.

“Sun recognizes that Linux is a key route to the developer community and they need to make it as easy as possible for that community to use Java,” says industry analyst Neil Macehiter, of IT advisory firm Macehiter Ward-Dutton, “as also evidenced by the growing support for scripting languages on the JVM.”

In addition to Ubuntu and Debian, a number of open-source project teams have announced plans to redistribute the JDK, packaged for use with their operating systems, including: the Gentoo distribution of GNU/Linux; NexentaOS, a hybrid operating system with an OpenSolaris kernel and GNU applications; and both the Schillix and BeleniX versions of OpenSolaris.

“This [new license] eliminates one of the biggest roadblocks to wider use of the Java platform on free and open-source operating system platforms,” says Mark Shuttleworth, founder and sponsor of the Ubuntu distro, “and makes Java technology a more attractive foundation on which to build new projects and innovations.”

Among Sun's other open-source announcements at this year's JavaOne:

  • The company announced plans to release several technologies to open source, which combined create a complete, open SOA solution of middleware and tools. These include: the Studio Creator IDE and NetBeans Enterprise Pack, the Java System Portal Server, the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) Engine, and the first open source release from the SeeBeyond acquisition.
  • Sun plans to release the code for its Web Services Interoperability Technology (WSIT), which is designed to enable operability between Java and the Microsoft .NET Framework. These components cover security, messaging, quality of service and metadata support. Sun also plans to release a NetBeans 5.5 plug-in for WSIT for developing cross-platform Web services.
  • Although Sun continues to eschew membership in the open-source Eclipse Foundation, whose Java-based tooling framework has teraformed the Java IDE landscape, the company disclosed that it has committed code to the Eclipse Concurrent Version System (Eclipse CVS), the repository for Eclipse source code. The donated code should enable Eclipse tools to function on Sun's Solaris x86 system, the foundations executive director, Mike Milinkovich, told AppTrends.

“Keep in mind that Sun has already open-sourced Java,” says Sands, referring to Sun's submission of Java to an international standards body several years ago. The company withdrew from that process, fearing, it said at the time, that if it opened up the source code, Java would fracture into different versions.

“We took the source code for Java SE almost two and a half years ago and put it on Java.net as a development project,” he adds. “It's not open source yet, but you can see the source code, download it, do research with it, and submit fixes and feature enhancements into the development process through our JDK community.”

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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