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5/11/2005
06:21 PM
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Sun Blesses Open-Source Java Effort

A group of developers has proposed an Apache-backed project to create an open-source version of Sun's desktop Java software. Sun executives have endorsed the project, and the company might even participate.

Sun Shines, But Others Take A Dim View
Graham Hamilton, Sun's chief technologist for Java Software, discussed the proposal in a blog entry posted the day after Harmony's public debut. Hamilton, who apparently was in contact with Harmony members well before the announcement, notes that Magnusson had agreed to deliver a talk--presmably at his or another Sun executive's request--on Harmony at Sun's JavaOne event, to be held in San Francisco in late June.

"Personally, I am not entirely sure if the world really needs a second J2SE implementation," Hamilton stated in his blog entry. Although Hamilton also cautioned that "creating a full scale implementation is a mammoth task," on the whole, his comments indicated that both he and Sun welcomed the effort.

"I wish Apache success and we'll certainly be tracking this as it develops," Hamilton said. "We'll probably participate in the project at some level, although most of our efforts will continue to be focused on building Sun's reference implementation of J2SE."

Other highly-placed Sun employees, including chief technology evangelist Simon Phipps, also welcomed the announcement, confirming that Sun has decided to endorse and possibly to support the effort.

The discussion at TheServerSide.com, where Magnusson posted a copy of the proposal and replied to some comments, mostly reflected skepticism about various aspects of the project. Many of the comments echoed Hamilton's concern over the group's ability to complete such an ambitious project in a reasonable time, while others questioned whether Harmony was the best use for the group's collective time and talent.

"Aside from the possible academic gains of an open-source version of J2SE, what will the mainstream developer gain?" asked one writer, adding, "why must this talented group of folks run off and create their own flavor of J2SE instead of helping along Sun's [Java Virtual Machine}?"

Souza Keeps His Cool
Bruno Souza, a Brazilian consultant and Java advocate, took the comments in stride. "An open source [J2SE] implementation helps in research, discussions, and even in the evolution of the Compatibility Kit," Souza stated in his own Java.net blog.

Referring to a recent conversation with long-time Sun executive and Java inventor James Gosling, Souza recalled that Gosling "commented on how important a clean room implementation" would be to validate the JCP's own J2SE specification, referring to the process of reverse-engineering a proprietary technology in a legally defensible manner.

He also challenged the notion that Harmony would squander the work of existing, smaller Open-Source projects, such as the Free Software Foundation-backed Classpath and Kaffe efforts. "My hope is that all the existing efforts around J2SE . . . can discuss and prototype around Harmony on architecture and modularization," Souze stated. "And then Apache can propose modifications in the Java standards, bringing them back into the JCP."

Souza is a veteran of several open-source Java initiatives, founding the Brazilian Javali project and later co-founding the Roxo project, which sought to use Kaffe and Classpath as the basis for a J2SE package capable of passing the TGws.

"The fact that Harmony is committed to do it all the way, is important," he stated. "How imprtant would [J2EE be] if we had a single application server?"

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