Apache deal to bring Java to open source community

SAN FRANCISCO — It was just a matter of time before Scott McNealy slammed Sun Microsystems Inc.’s nemesis Microsoft Corp. is his keynote address Tuesday at JavaOne.

But first, the CEO and chairman of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun

addressed developers at the worldwide conference by bringing Java development one step closer to the realm of open source.

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) has reached an agreement with Sun Microsystems and members of the Java Community Process (JCP) to secure the basic right to implement Java specifications in open source. The agreement is the result of extended dialogue over the past year.

Sun has pledged to use licences that enable open source independent implementations for all its Java specifications and Test Compatibility Kits (TCKs) for future Sun-led Java specifications as well as key specifications already released.

“”We believe, properly implemented, these changes will fertilize the growing open source Java community, resulting in wider adoption of Java technologies. We also strongly believe the wider availability of Test Compatibility Kits and the existence of solid open source Java specification implementations will serve to improve and enhance Java’s compatibility,”” said Jason Hunter, ASF vice-president, Java Community Process.

The agreement responds to four concerns Apache raised in January and were seen as critical to Apache’s support of and continued participation in the Java Community Process. These include: The right to freely implement specifications in open source; the right for specification leads to release reference implementations and test kits in open source; the right for specifications to be created more publicly; and the right to free access to test kits by open source, non-profit, and academic groups.

Hunter said these issues would be addressed in two ways. First, through a series of proposed revisions to the legal agreement signed when joining the Java Community Process, known as the JSPA. The JSPA is currently undergoing revision by the JCP Executive Committee. Second, and more immediately, Sun has agreed to proactively address Apache’s issues for Sun-led JSRs.

From now on, licence terms for finalized Sun-led specifications (including revisions to existing specifications), will allow independent implementations under open source licenses. TCK Binaries for these specifications will be made available at no cost to qualified open source, non-profit, and academic groups. Sun will also provide substantial support to aid these qualified groups in the use and execution of the TCKs.

Hunter said the ASF will be closely monitoring the implementation details of the agreement to make sure any gains resulting from the agreement are not lost.

“”I believe the Java community is both tighter and broader and that Java will continue to win because of this,”” said McNealy. “”The reason why Java wins is the Community Process. A lot of people have given us input over the years on how we’re doing, on our stewardship.””

McNealy said there’s only two computing architectures — one that is open and one that is completely closed.

“”We have the .Not…I mean the .Net, as the other architecture,”” he said, referring to Microsoft’s forthcoming Web services platform. “”I believe it’s mankind versus the other architecture, and mankind’s going to win.””

McNealy said it’s important that technologies developed through open standards processes, such as XML, are protected from those companies that might hijack it and transform it into something that’s completely proprietary. He said the Java Community Process has been successful because it balanced openness while adhering to standards.

“”Standards bodies tend to move at the speed of Congress,”” he joked.

Microsoft has been pushing what it calls “”shared source,”” whereas McNealy described the development of .Net as “”closed via proprietary edict.

“”That’s not shared,”” he said. “”(Java) is open. It’s shared. It’s a community. It’s scalable. It gives everyone a chance to share and participate.””

McNealy said the most dangerous component of .Net is that Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft wants to be the service provider for .Net. “”In the Java model, anyone and everyone can be the service provider.””

McNealy said he’s often asked why he hasn’t retired yet. His answer: “”I can’t leave my kids to a world of alt.ctrl.del, to MSN.””

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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