On the heels of "opening day" of an open source Solaris operating system, Sun Microsystems has unveiled plans to open the source code for its Java application server and directory engine.
In releasing the source code for its Java System Application Server Platform Edition 9.0 and Java System Enterprise Service Bus (Java ESB) under the same OSI-approved CDDL license used for Sun's OpenSolaris project, Sun is laying the groundwork for a continued evolution of a complete Java Enterprise System platform.
The code was released by Sun under the same OSI-approved CDDL license used in the OpenSolaris project.
Previously, Sun donated 135,000 lines of collaboration code focused on infrastructure source code from its Java System Instant Messaging and Java Studio Enterprise product lines for use by the open source community on NetBeans.org, a development community that was open sourced by Sun in 2000.
The open source Java talk has sent tongues wagging, said principal analyst Charles King of Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Research, and with good reason. In the second such announcement in the past month, Sun has made a serious effort in the open source arena.
When both the OpenSolaris announcement from mid-June and the Java plan are taken together, King suggested that the efforts are reflective of a strong desire on the part of Sun to pursue a more consistent open source strategy.
However, to King there is still a lingering question in regards to Sun's behavior with open source: Why do they want to go the open source route at all?
"Sun has expressed an interest in and support of open source and Linux for the past few years but undermined those efforts with offerings that delivered less than promised or arrived with an excessive number of strings attached," King wrote in his weekly review of the IT industry. "During this same time, the company's share of the server market consistently withered as it pursued solutions and strategies at odds with the rest of the market."
Indeed, vendors like IBM have been all over Sun's fading numbers using a tandem of data from analyst firms like the Sageza Group that show more than 3,000 customers have switched from Solaris to Linux since 2000 alongside initiatives like Chiphopper than provide free migration services for users considering a switch.
To its credit, Sun recently intensified the effort to put its house in order, starting with the elevation of Jonathan Schwartz to company president, King said.
"Sun's recent open source efforts have Schwartz's fingerprints all over them, and while they will not likely deliver the company significant short-term gains, they do leave Sun in better shape for the future," King said.
What would put Sun in even better shape, King contended, is if they can strike that balance between serving the needs of the existing customer base and developing offerings to attract new ones. To date Sun has been good at the former while competing vendors have capitalized on their inability to conduct the latter.
"Given the growing popularity of Linux in those areas, Sun must create workable and significant open source offerings or risk further marginalization. Whether these new programs will attract significant numbers of developers is uncertain, but at least Sun is no longer guilty of pushing them away," King said.
Sun's 10-year extension of its existing Java licensing agreement with IBM illuminated a similar issue. While the vendors have collided in the past over Java, IBM remains the leader in Java application servers. In garnering IBM's support for another decade and gaining its rival's support of Solaris on x86, Sun comes out of the deal looking pretty slick, while IBM gains easier access to Solaris customers.
The agreement allows IBM access to Java Enterprise Edition, Micro Edition, and Standard Edition technologies until 2016. As part of the agreement, IBM said it will port and certify enterprise applications, including DB2, Rational, Tivoli, and WebSphere to Sun's Solaris for x86 operating environments.
"The real difference between Sun and IBM [is] that Sun seeks stability while IBM focuses on building opportunities," King said "This marks the difference between a company trying to find its way back from the brink and another that is dealing from a position of strength."