A Push To Open Java

It is quite ironic that the language and platform that has sourced so many open source applications and open standards in the development world, is not open source itself.

Peter Yared, a former Sun executive, tries to get an answer on Sun’s open source strategy. While Sun’s Solaris and StarOffice have their open source counter parts (OpenSolaris and OpenOffice), why is Java being held back? He has posted an open letter on his weblog to Sun President, Jonathan Schwartz.

Peter, looks at it from multiple perspectives. One is to understand why Sun does not want to collaborate with LAMP to compete with Microsoft .Net which offers multiple languages on a single virtual machine. Sun can open up Java Virtual Machine (JVM) to invite the Ps (PHP, Python, Perl – ‘P’ in LAMP, as Peters calls them), which are all open source; and offer an integrated productive platform.

The “P” languages in LAMP — PHP, Python, and Perl — are all open source, and each provide their own virtual machine. It would be ideal if the Java JVM was open source so that open source projects like PHP could join up with the Java Virtual Machine. In turn, Java would be much more competitive with .Net, which supports numerous languages out of the box. Initiatives like adding dynamic language support in the JVM will not go far if Java can not meet existing languages on a common ground of open source.

Using open source as a common ground for various technologies to meet and integrate is a very interesting point. Open source, as it is, provides great transparency and control over software development. Interaction between various technologies on this ground can add the value of choice and higher productivity to the developer.

The second point that Peter tries to tingle is the significance of Java Community Process (JCP) in the world of Java. “The JCP holds the responsibility for the development of Java technology. As an open, inclusive organization of active members and non-member public input, it primarily guides the development and approval of Java technical specifications. Anyone can join the JCP and have a part in its process, and you don’t even have to join to contribute as a public participant.”

And most of the Java innovation nowadays comes from open source projects like Spring and Hibernate, not the JCP, which then has to recreate all of these open source projects. Some of the biggest supports of Java, including IBM and BEA and others in the JCP executive committee, have long asked for Java to be open sourced.

Meanwhile, Apache has incubated the Harmony project which wants to be an independent, compatible implementation of J2SE 5. Its specific aim is to modularise development so that runtime components can be shared. More of them have come up and some more will dividing the Java community itself.

Sun has to make its open source strategy clear, to justify its selective behaviour for making certain projects open source and not making something as powerful as Java. While a normal Java develper can care zilch about it being open source, the vision of creating an open source platform with multiple technologies really wants something like the JVM to be opened up.

In addition to covering this, eWEEK also provides opinion of James Gosling, the creator of Java.

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

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