Java To Reach Open Source Finish Line At JavaOne Show

As part of the plan, Sun is chartering a five-member interim governance board to manage the Java Development Kit's transition from Sun property to open source code.
Sun Microsystems will fulfill its pledge to make Java open source on Tuesday by releasing major components of the Java Development Kit on the opening day of its annual JavaOne user group conference in San Francisco.

Late last year Sun released its Java compiler, Java C, and Hotspot Java Virtual Machine, the runtime environment that translates intermediate Java code called byte code to the ones and zeroes that will run on the processor of a target computer. It also released its Java Micro Edition, but the more sophisticated parts of Java Enterprise Edition remained in Sun's hands.

"Now all the remaining tools and class libraries are being released," said Rich Sands, community marketing manager for the open Java Development Kit community, in an interview.

Sun's CEO Jonathan Schwartz promised soon after taking office that he would make Java open source code. An open source version of Java, called Harmony, is still under way at the Apache Software Foundation.

There is still one element of Java under Sun's control and that is the compatibility test suite, a collection of 30,000-plus test cases that establish the compatibility of a piece of Java code with all other Java code produced under the Java Enterprise Edition brand.

Sands said Sun is "constructing a new commercial license to allow developers to use the test suite" and expects to finish the task sometime within the next 12 months. If the availability of open source Java rapidly expands the ranks of companies and developers building products with it, "we need a different license to allow use of the test kit."

"It won't be an open source license. It will be a usage license appropriate for a Java Development Kit user to test his work," he said. In the past, Sun has charged hefty fees to users of the compatibility test suite, who needed the successful completion of the suite to illustrate that their Java products were Enterprise Edition compatible.

Marc Fleury, former CEO of JBoss, claimed his firm was charged close to $500,000 to prove that JBoss was as compatible with existing Java code as any other application server. Sands comments indicate that Sun is scaling down its test suite charges for a much larger market of Java developers.

Sun is chartering a five-member interim governance board to manage the Java Development Kit's transition from Sun property to open source code. The board will have two members from Sun, three members from outside the company. The interim board will draft a constitution that will establish how Java is to modified and added to in the long run. It will decide who among the many thousands of interested programmers and commercial companies will get to vote on the constitution.

"We have to do a bootstrap process. We need a mechanism to get the self-governing mechanism going," he said.

Sun is capitalizing on its experience in establishing the Java Community Process, a semi-open congress of companies that controlled Java's ongoing development up to this point. Sun left certain control points in the JCP where it could appoint a majority, such as the executive committee overseeing additions to Java. But the JCP maintained a wobbly peace among the many contending parties that had an interest in Java's future. IBM, BEA Systems, Oracle, and Sun all competed on various fronts while sharing an interest in Java.

The Java Development Kit contains all the code essential to building Java applications and allowing them to run in any environment where a Java virtual machine can be hosted. That includes Windows, Unix, Linux, and nearly all other mainstream platforms, such as the IBM iSeries.

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