Sun Makes Open-Source Move, Patches Up IBM Relationship

At the JavaOne conference, Sun said IBM will renew its Java Standard Edition license and port its key middleware products to Solaris 10 for x86.

June 28, 2005

4 Min Read
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At the opening of Sun Microsystems' 10th annual JavaOne Java developer gathering, president Jonathan Schwartz said Sun was making its Java Application Server open source.

"You should assume this is the first of many steps" in the direction of open-source code, he told a gathering of 12,000 Monday at the conference at San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center.

Enlarging the library of Java open-source code "allows people to participate, it brings them on board, it enlarges the community," Schwartz said. And Sun is hoping that increasing the sales volume of its Java products will generate demand for them as a comprehensive set. Sun's Java Application Server is part of its Java Enterprise System, which also includes an integration server, directory server, and identity-management server.

In addition, Schwartz said Sun has patched up its sometimes-strained relationship with IBM. "Some of you may have noticed, we've had just a little bit of a chill in our relationship," he said in his opening remarks at the conference. In a rare acknowledgement, Schwartz said that IBM helped Sun establish Java 10 years ago in the enterprise. "They were there with us shoulder to shoulder at the beginning," he said.

IBM has renewed its license for Java Standard Edition, the core Java language, for another 10 years, Schwartz said. With a full Java product line of its own, IBM's renewal would seem to be a given. But behind the scenes, the tensions between the two have kept that issue unresolved. The resolution seemed to be a cause for celebration.Schwartz piped in a recorded video from Steve Mills, IBM senior VP for its software group, who said it was time for Sun and IBM to iron out their differences for the sake of Java customers. "We've been able to expand our licensing arrangements around Java," Mills said.

In addition, IBM has agreed to port its five major software product lines to run on Sun's Solaris 10 for x86 operating system: WebSphere Application Server and related middleware, WebSphere MQ messaging middleware, Tivoli system-management software, IBM Rational development tools, and the DB2 database system.

The porting of IBM software to Solaris has been prevented in the past by the fact that Sun and IBM are major Unix server competitors. Until now, IBM has shown no interest in making its software run on the Solaris platform. The port is to the version of Solaris that runs on Intel- and AMD-based servers. Both Sun and IBM sell Intel and AMD hardware. "Recently we have seen an increase in customer interest in running Solaris on Intel/AMD platforms," Mills said in a prepared statement.

IBM has had differences with Sun over Sun's control of the Java Community Process, the vendor alliance that makes additions and changes to Java, and in Sun's refusal to submit Java to an international standards organization.

The renewal of the Java license and agreement to move IBM middleware to Solaris doesn't necessarily resolve the two company's differences over the Java Community Process, says Shawn Willett, an analyst with Current Analysis.Nevertheless, the Sun-IBM agreement resolves background-licensing issues between the two and ensures a united Java over the next 10 years. At the height of the Sun/IBM conflict five years ago, some observers feared a split between the two and an IBM version of Java emerging to compete with Sun's. At that time, IBM turned away from Sun and endorsed a Microsoft-proposed standard for Web services called Simple Object Access Protocol.

In their joint statement, Sun and IBM said they "reaffirm the value and necessity of Java compatibility across platforms and demonstrate that both companies are committed to Java innovation," the latter a reference to the Java Community Process.

IBM is still absent from Sun's initiative to establish a standard for an enterprise server bus, the Java Business Initiative. On Monday, Sun unveiled a reference implementation of the JBI proposal it launched last fall. JBI 1.0 specifies a set of adapters that work with an enterprise service bus to integrate applications across the enterprise.

BEA Systems, IBM, Iona Technologies, the Sonic Software unit of Progress Software, and Tibco Software all sell commercial versions of enterprise service buses. Sun's JBI 1.0 specification is neutral among the available enterprise service buses, but John Fowler, Sun's executive VP, network systems, explained it creates standard adapters that can be used to connect a messaging system to different applications.

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