Feeds

On Sun, Java and Open Source

Fundamentalists clash

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Analysis Sun says open sourcing Java code will fragment and devalue the platform. Sun's opponents say that under the current community process development is too slow. They're both right, but the debate, which Scott McNealy regards as synthetic - an issue manufactured by hypocritical competitors - highlights what people really want from a technology. It's an issue that finds Sun on the right side, but failing to convince skeptics. We'll argue that it should simply ignore them because the proof that Sun has it more right than wrong was evident in every corner of the huge JavaOne conference this week. JavaOne 2004 sees the community in rude health.

Underlying the debate about open source is about what the real role of a technology company should be. Should it serve a purpose for other businesses - as an enabler - or one that justifies own existence? Technology companies have tended to do the latter, and this reached a crescendo of hyperbole in the dot.com era.

Unfortunately open source advocates sometimes sound like the worst offenders. The strongest argument against open source is that it's an abstraction, and the process doesn't in itself cure anything. Issues like "transparency" and "the freedom to tinker" don't appeal to technology buyers. Quite the opposite, at times: CIOs worry that the fact that source code is available is an invitation for expensive consultants or scruffy BoFHs alike to write themselves into lucrative and quite unnecessary contracts.

The arguments for open source are most convincing when they're articulated in terms of outcomes. Open source has huge benefits for security, and can even out crinkles in the economy which permit vendors to charge too much for software of limited value. (TCP/IP isn't a $29 or a $99 proposition, and Microsoft Office can't be priced at $349 for very much longer).

Sun's position isn't easy to articulate, because Java is at least three important things under one name - a framework, a VM and a language - and each of which has a different merits for ownership.

Every attendee we met at JavaOne has ideas on speeding up development, but we couldn't find anyone who thought open sourcing Java was a going to make it better. Schwartz perfectly expresses the sentiment of Java developers when he says, "The process I'm sure has got flaws everywhere you look, but my God, it's worked."

Alas Sun is caught between two sets of fundamentalists.

In the open source community the right to fork is viewed in the same way as the NRA views the Second Amendment. But it's the last thing that Java developers or CIOs want to hear. If open source developers want a true software libre equivalent, there's nothing to stop them writing one. We already have Mono, which may fail in its goal to be a .NET compatible framework but may succeed in the long term in providing much of what Java offers. It has a long way to go.

The other set of fundamentalists live on Wall Street, with their notion that vertically integrated companies like Sun are inefficient, because they don't squeeze costs out of the system. (It's the analysts who should read customer's comments left at this weblog.). Wall Street really doesn't want Sun around at all in its present shape: it would much rather see a standalone Java company. It's funny that you don't hear them call for Redmond to split Microsoft into a Visual Studio company, and an Office company. Bill Gates says that Longhorn will cost as much as the Apollo space program; Apple has proved that it can do much of that with only a fraction of the resources. But that's something else.

The sign that Sun is doing, at the very least, a pretty reasonable job here was in the enthusiastic response from the show floor to its Java Studio Creator IDE, formerly Project Rave. The GPL release of its gimmicky 3D Desktop Looking Glass undoubtedly won more column inches, but where it matters, Sun is delivering. Politics is by definition a messy business: a good outcome doesn't come with 0 errors and 0 warnings, like a nice clean build. Fundamentalists don't like the political process, and they're never going to be happy, but from Sun's stewardship of Java the rest of the technology industry can learn a lot. The outcome speaks for itself. ®

Related stories

Heads roll but Blueprint stays - Sun
Sun's HPTC chief becomes loosely coupled
Sun open sources Looking Glass
HP must create separate printer biz - analyst

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
Red Hat to ship RHEL 7 release candidate with a taste of container tech
Grab 'near-final' version of next Enterprise Linux next week
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.