Sun set to open source Java in November time-frame

Sun Microsystems Inc. is gradually providing more details on how it plans to open source its core Java technology, delivering on a promise the company made to developers back in May at its JavaOne conference.

The vendor intends to make both Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE) and Java Platform Micro Edition (Java ME) freely available in “the November time frame,” Peder Ulander, vice president of software marketing at Sun, said in an interview Tuesday.

An open-source development initiative for building an application server based on the third member of the Java family, Java Platform Enterprise Edition (Java EE), has been under way since June 2005 under the name Project GlassFish.

Sun intends to open source three main components of, respectively, Java SE and of Java ME, Ulander said. For Java SE, the pieces are Java Compiler, JavaHelp and the Java HotSpot virtual machine. For Java ME, the components are the Connected Limited Device Configuration (CLDC) stack, the Connected Device Configuration (CBC) and the Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP) 2.1.

Motorola Inc. announced Tuesday its plans to establish a Java ME open-source community for the mobile devices industry, voicing a hope to stem the fragmentation of the Java mobile platform.

While Sun always intends to have technology branded Java, it’s likely that work the open-source community does on the freely available versions of Java SE and Java ME will be known by project names, just like Java EE’s Project GlassFish, Ulander said.

Once Sun has open sourced Java, the company will have made 70 percent of its entire software portfolio freely available, Ulander said. Sun “is still on track” to open source all its software within 12 months, he added, with the remaining 30 percent consisting of the vendor’s SOA (service-oriented architecture) suite and its identity management software.

“We’re already down that path,” Ulander said to open source both the SOA and ID offerings since Sun has previously made both its business process execution language (BPEL) engine and its single sign-on technology freely available.

Open sourcing its software is Sun’s “seeding model” to encourage more developers to experiment with its technologies, Ulander said. The hope is once enterprises decide to adopt Sun software, they’ll want to pay for maintenance and support services and then also look at its hardware and storage offerings, driving up the company’s revenue.

Ulander cited Sun President and Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Schwartz’s claim that the vendor’s software drives 90 percent of the company’s hardware sales. So far, Sun hasn’t gone out of its way to illustrate that connection, but Ulander said the company is readying four case studies of Hewlett-Packard Co. server customers who first tried out, then moved to Sun’s OpenSolaris open-source operating system and over time also migrated to Sun’s x86 servers.

Sun plans to begin breaking out software sales when it reports its financial results, according to Ulander. That breakout will probably start appearing once the vendor closes its current fiscal year in June 2007, he said.

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