Tuesday, March 28, 2006

An Open Letter to Jonathan Schwartz

This post was also published in InfoWorld.

Dear Jonathan,

Long time no see! The same way you enjoy writing open letters to IBM and others in your blog -- I wanted to write an open letter to you and Sun, and see if I can get a little clarity about your open source software strategy. As I am sure you have noticed, there has been quite a bit of momentum around LAMP in the industry, ranging from innovators like Google, Yahoo!, and Amazon, to the "Web 2.0" crowd like Friendster, MySpace, and Flickr. In addition, LAMP has increasing usage in the enterprise.

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.

What is unfortunate about Sun's open source strategy is that it is very unclear. Can you please answer the following question with a single coherent sentence that people can remember and repeat? If I ask five Sun employees this question, I get five different answers, so having simple answers to these questions will clearly help your own workforce as well as your customers and prospects!

"Why is it good to open source OpenSolaris and OpenOffice and bad to open source Java?"

We all know the standard Sun answer that Java will get fractured and that the JCP is great. However, OpenSolaris and OpenOffice have not been fractured since being open sourced. 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.

So what's up? Can you guys let go a bit and let us all share a single, open source virtual machine? It would be good for Java, good for LAMP, and good for customers. Combining two of the three leading development platforms would make them both more competitive against .Net.




Mic said...

Amen to that.

Please, shout it from the rooftops. Sun, now is the time. Set it free.

GeekyGirl Dawn Foster said...

Hi Peter!

This is getting some nice press attention at eWeek.

GreyLite said...

It is the time for you to make sure that LAMP solution can bit Java solution, esp in the Enterprise.

Borja said...

Please, do free Java for several reasons:

- Some developers are alergic to Java just becouse it is not free ( like freedom ).

- Installing Java, Tomcat, Jeronimo or other server /apps in Linux is becoming more and more difficult. There is lack of official packages supported. Sometimes you need to build your own packages downloading the source from Java. Dependencies are awfull and upgrading your server won't be easy at all.

- Fragmentation WILL happen if Java is not freed: Kaffe, Cacao, Harmony, ... there are several free VM our there. Debian already comes with Kaffe by defauly. If free software hackers succeed in developing GPL'd a virtual machina there will be quite a lot of fragmentation, but if they only have limited success it will be worse: bugs, Java unrealiable, etc, etc, etc.

kaafree said...

IMHO, there is a need for opening Java as standard, not for Sun's code. This was done with OpenOffice documents formats, now I expect Java to follow.

Free (as in freedom) implementations will cover our needs. And Sun could continue benefit from their code. Later they could consider opening code but that's another story.

Lukas Zapletal said...

As standard? Well, you can download whole bunch of standardized specifications. Standardizing Java API is a fairy tale - you cant do it because its moving forward.

I think Sun _is_ open company. If you really do need open JVM and API, there are many implementations you can use. There is the Sun Community License covering the API - a good start.

Java is open language and there are many solid implementations. The question arises: can you do a business with these?

cfrankb said...

Regarding OpenSolaris and OpenOffice have not been fractured since being open sourced. Please explain to my bewildered brain how Nexenta is not a fracture (fork?) of (Open)Solaris.

Robert said...

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.

Yeah, JRuby, Jython, Groovy, Beanshell and Pnuts are all wasting their time.

theuserbl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
theuserbl said...

Thx for the nice open letter.

But it seems, that Sun will never make theire Java-implementation OpenSource.

So the best would be, to support GNU Classpath and free JVMs, which uses GNU Classpath instead.

There existing also already much progress of the free Java implementations.
Have a look at the screenshots of the blogs of Roman and Mark to see how far GNU Classpath already is.

Then there existing firms like Aicas which used for theire Closed Source JVM GNU Classpath, because for licensing reasons. And they pay for people like Roman to make GNU Classpath better.

The next step would be, that Mozilla and OpenOffice.org would support more free JVMs instead of Suns Java.
For example in Mozilla Firefox, by showing a link to a free JVM if there is no Java on the computer installed.

Other things are already done. Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora have free Javas installed instead of Suns Java. And OpenOffice.org and Firefox on these distributions used free Java versions.

So the best would be, to supporting free Java implementations, instead of hoping that Sun makes in any time its own implementation open.

Automatt said...

Hey Peter!

This is such a great question... you must keep us up to date with the top ten best answers.

Fernando (Nerd Gaucho) said...

Perhaps you should read the INQUIRER...

An open source J2SE virtual machine is in the works, by the folks at Apache and with help from Intel, and IBM, among others.

It was a project which started close to a year ago...

Apache to "cleanroom" java with Sun's blessing

This is a nice approach and allows sun to continue having control of the platform's direction, avoiding forks and "polluting" of java like MSFT attempted to do years ago with their win32 native code extensions that broke "write once, run anywhere".

Like I said, perhaps you should read us more often?. :-D

Sun-approved Open Source Java making progress
MARCH 31, 2006

Argentina students help Apache's Open Source Java effort
MARCH 31, 2006

What part of "The licensing rules for J2SE 5.0 were carefully designed to allow independent, compatible open-source implementations of the J2SE specification"" don't you understand?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not picking on you, honest. :-)

Fernando Cassia

Michael said...


Nice note. Eweek covered it good as well. Sun's really struggling since .com bust over identity and what it does well. Java...is like a lifeline to the company. I worked there during the .com boom and bust, WebVan was one of my key clients as an SSE in the Bay Area.

Opensourcing Java...great idea, long time needed. Having a super reliable vm in opensource arena would be great.

1 sentence for Sun to come back with should be:

"Okay, we'll do it"

Now can we all pray for that to happen. I wonder if Jonathan will listen as McNealy did from time to time...


Krystal said...

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