BEA, JBoss slam Sun’s open source strategy

SAN FRANCISCO — Rival software vendors BEA Systems Inc. and JBoss Inc. see Sun Microsystems Inc.‘s recent move to open source Java

server software as irrelevant.

Executives from the software firms made similar comments on Sun’s announcement Monday at JavaOne that it is sharing the source code for the Java System Application Server Platform Edition 9.0 and the Java System Enterprise Server Bus (Java ESB). Both are being offered under the same license, which is the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), that is also being used for Sun’s OpenSolaris project, announced at last year’s JavaOne conference.

Sun submitted the CDDL to the Open Source Initiative (OSI) for review last December and it was approved by the non-profit organization’s board of directors in January. Sun has faced some criticism from the Java community around certain licensing models, including the Java Research License (JRL), which grants some access to source code but stops short of using it beyond research.

JBoss founder and CEO Marc Fleury said in an interview with Tuesday that CDDL still isn’t open source.

“(Sun) always has to have to have their own little quirk in the license,” said Fleury. “Frankly, it’s kind of irrelevant. The sad part of the story is Sun is letting loose and no one cares.”

Likewise, Bill Roth, vice-president of product marketing at San Jose, Calif.-based BEA, said BEA also sees the move as “largely irrelevant.”

“CDDL is not truly open source. It requires claw-backs, not give-backs,” said Roth. “On the one hand, (Sun) wants the project open yet they still want to own the innovation, which misses the mark.”

Jennifer McNeill, president and CEO of Calgary-based CipherSoft Inc., which makes software to help users convert legacy apps to a Java environment, however, said companies like Sun are turning to open source to give their customers an alternative to proprietary software. CipherSoft recently announced the launch of Exodus ADF, the newest release in its suite of migration tools, which helps companies migrate proprietary Oracle Forms to open source Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF).

“Sun is really leading the way by offering this technolgy as open source,” said McNeill. “We’re seeing many companies being forced to do that to be perceived as an open technology.”

But Fleury said the mood around open source from last year’s JavaOne to this year’s has changed from curiosity to fear.

“Last year everybody was denying that open source was important and they were dipping toes in open source and they were not serious,” said Fleury. “This year it smells like panic.

“The whole discussion is an emotional stick that IBM is using to club Sun with. Last year you were not hot if you didn’t have an open source strategy. This year everybody is scared, open source has a very dark side to it.”

Similarly, McNeill said open source can also be dangerous in that it puts companies on the same playing field. She added it also makes it difficult for companies like IBM and Sun that need to maintain proprietary aspects of their businesses while simultaneously promoting their open source offerings.

“It’s going to take (the industry) a couple of years to find that balance,” said McNeill. “You have to find a balance to continue to make money and be a viable company but you also have the open technology.”

Both Fleury and Roth also pointed out Sun’s lack of market share in the application server market, which is flooded with products from IBM, BEA, JBoss, Oracle and SAP.

“We’re still not talking about the virtual machine,” said Fleury. “(Sun’s) application server had zero market share. They were giving it away for free. What does that say? It says that by going open source they’ll have a better market share than zero per cent.”

“It demonstrates (Sun’s) single lack of ability to obtain market share in the app server space,” echoed Roth.

The open source license, based on the Mozilla Public License (MPL), version 1.1, provides indemnification and patent protection and protects software compatibility, according to Sun. Roth, however, said Sun should use standard licenses like MPL and not its own version.

“(Sun) needs to stop making up its own licenses and use standard ones. Use Mozilla’s,” said Roth.

Sun chairman and CEO Scott McNealy, however, argued that the CDDL solves compatibility issues associated with the open sourcing of Java.

“We have protected the Java brand to be compatible and safe and secure and all the rest of it,” said McNealy in a roundtable discussion with press on Monday. “(CDDL) solves some of these concerns.

“They can contribute and protect their innovations and still co-mingle. We found a better licensing model and now it makes it a little more palatable to the broader Java community.”

McNealy added that some of the over 900 Java Community Process members aren’t all that comfortable with the General Public Licensing (GPL) model and other licensing mechanisms because of their auto-viral aspects of co-mingled code.

While IBM did not have a booth at this year’s JavaOne show, Microsoft Corp., for the first time in the company’s history did. Tucked away in a corner of the show floor, conference attendees, of which there are roughly 15,000, did double takes when they saw the “Microsoft Corp.” name printed on the top of the booth. Microsoft and Sun earlier this month gave an update to the industry rivals progress since announcing a 10-year agreement last year. The two companies announced product interoperability between their platforms, including single sign-on (SSO) capability for Web services.

Brian Keller, product manager for Visual Studio at Microsoft Corp., said after passersby ask why Microsoft is here one of the most popular questions is around interoperability issues between Java and .Net programming languages.

“It’s surprising the number of customers that have .Net and Java,” said Keller, adding that Microsoft brought down the Indigo team to answer questions about interoperability issues with Web services. “Any competition is healthy for the industry.”

While Microsoft is staying mum on whether it has plans to open source .Net, Keller said Microsoft has shared offerings for .Net such as the Rotor project, which provides a free, shared-source implementation of Microsoft’s Common Language Runtime (CLR) and the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) platforms.

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