Sun and HP open code to developers

Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are expected to announce separately Monday that they will make projects under development at the companies available to developers under the open source model, adding further support to the collaborative development model.

The announcements are to come at the start of the O’Reilly Open Source Convention, which begins today in San Diego, Calif. The event features technical workshops for developers and discussions with industry executives about the latest projects to come out of the open source movement, which preaches the free distribution of source code.

Sun said it will announce its fourth open source project at the event, its Grid Engine distributed computing software. The software is designed to allow large corporations and organizations to link hundreds to thousands of computers together in order to collaborate on large-scale computing projects, basically doing the work of a supercomputer.

“With distributed computing there are lots of systems from different vendors working together, and you need heterogeneous environments,” said John Tollefsrud, a product line manager at Sun. “This is the kind of technology space that just lends itself to open source very well. Developers can work at the source level to make sure things interoperate.”

Sun acquired the technology in July 2000 when it purchased a company called Gridware that developed the software. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based server vendor rebranded the software Sun Grid Engine soon after, and has since distributed the application to as many as 8,000 companies and developers, including Motorola Inc. and Sony Corp.

About 500,000 lines of code associated with Grid Engine will be available for download at That adds to a further eight million lines of code available from Sun as part of its three other open source projects: Open Office, an open source version of its desktop software suite StarOffice; JXTA, it’s peer-to-peer computing project; and NetBeans, a set of open source Java tools.

HP, meanwhile, said it would make the source code for software related to its CoolTown project available for download under the open source model Monday. CoolTown is a development platform for so-called pervasive computing, where users can link all manner of computing devices with people and places via the Internet.

Currently under development at HP Labs in Palo Alto, Calif., CoolTown uses standard bar codes and hardware receivers called “beacons” to transmit Web site addresses to a handheld device or cell phone. A user can point a handheld at a beacon – or a bar code on a CD, for instance – and connect to a Web site with related information.

The company will open source the framework of CoolTown, called CoolBase. Included in that framework is a series of software applications for enabling devices to become smart and Web connected. HP will also open source the code for the CoolTown beacons and the “taggy” – a sample handheld device that will wirelessly receive information beamed from a beacon.

“You don’t usually see open source hardware,” said Bruce Perens, senior open source and Linux operating system strategist for HP.

Both companies said the motivation behind the open source projects was to increase collaboration in the development process. It also may help the companies gain industry wide adoption with their respective technologies.

“One thing that we really want is for CoolBase to become a standard,” Perens said. “Having it open source really helps that.”

While a number of major hardware and software vendors are beginning to embrace open source, and more specifically the Linux operating system, the model has been fiercely opposed by Microsoft Corp. Craig Mundie [cq], a Microsoft senior vice-president, will take part in a debate over the issue and the Free Software Foundation’s GNU General Public License, during a session at the O’Reilly Convention on Thursday.

Perens said HP does not agree with Microsoft’s stance that open source will jeopardize the proprietary, commercial development process or legally hinder the licensing of software. Microsoft has gone as far as calling open source a cancer.

“Giving people the software and hardware designs that they need … actually helps HP’s commercial plans,” Perens said.

“HP has lawyers too. And Microsoft’s lawyers say something very different than what our lawyers say,” he added. “Certainly we have not given up on proprietary software, but we certainly don’t say that Linux is a cancer.”

HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., can be reached at Sun Microsystems, in Palo Alto, Calif., is at