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Sun, Apache To Allow Open-Source Java Implementations

The open-source community won a victory today at the JavaOne conference here when Sun Microsystems said it would allow open-source implementations of Sun-led Java Specification Requests (JSRs) in the Java Community Process (JCP).

Sun Microsystems

The foundation has worked with Sun to support open-source versions of Java technologies, said Jason Hunter, vice president of the Apache Software Foundation during a keynote presentation by Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy. The vendor will make Sun-led JSRs available under licenses that allow open-source implementations, and for key JSRs already released, the licenses will be altered to allow open-source implementations, Hunter said. Sun also is allowing other companies' leading JSRs to release implementations and Java-compatibility test kits under open-source licenses.

In addition, Sun will make the binaries of Java-compatibility test kits available to nonprofit, academic open-source communities so they can create open-source implementations fully compatible with Java specifications, Hunter added.

Sun's support is key for the open-source community since the price tag for test kits has been "prohibitive for open-source groups," Hunter said. The vendor plans to provide toll-free phone support of the test kits to ensure that open-source developers use them properly, he added.

Sun's work with Apache software stems from its desire to propel Java forward through a community-driven effort, since that's what has made the technology what it is today, McNealy said. "A lot of people have given us a lot of input in how we're shepherding the technology. We're trying to take that into account, and given the kind of volume and position and perspective we have, we want to make a major move forward in [JCP," he said.

Before setting up the JCP, a panel of vendors that decides on Java standards, Sun came under fire for its control of the Java technology. But the criticism grew even louder in 1999 when Sun launched Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE). Smaller vendors complained that J2EE licenses were too costly, which precluded them from using the technology and becoming J2EE-compatible.

For example, in a very public row with Sun at the time, open-source software vendor Lutris Technologies claimed it had a J2EE-compatible application server but couldn't brand it as such because of licensing constraints. Sun argued that because open-source code allows anyone to make changes, J2EE compatibility could be compromised. But after roughly a yearlong fight, Lutris ended up buying the J2EE license, and it now has a proprietary J2EE product.

In the JavaOne keynote, McNealy and Hunter didn't address how code changes in open-source implementations of Java technology might affect Java licensing.

Commenting on Sun's open-source announcement at JavaOne, Lutris President and CEO Yancy Lind said Sun's message to the open-source community is "mixed" and doesn't come close to making Java a true open-source technology.

"It's very vague and far short of what the open-source community wants to happen," Lind said. "Open-source means all of the standards that make up the Java language and platform would be freely available."

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