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Java Developer : Article

How to Bypass Sun & Open Source Java

How to Bypass Sun & Open Source Java

Since Sun flatly refuses to open source Java, Rick Ross, the founder of the Java Lobby, is publicly toying with the idea of a group effort to build an open source Java implementation from scratch led by IBM, which has a bigger investment in Java than Sun and recently called on Sun to open source it.

Ross says, "Even though IBM is a licensee of Sun's Java, I'm sure their phalanx of corporate lawyers could find a safe way for Big Blue to apply the resources it offered Sun to the task of building a clean-room Java that would be second to none. It's really not that far-fetched. I have heard whispers that IBM already possesses more than one verifiably untainted implementation of the complete Java platform, and we all know they have the wealth and talent to create one quickly if they really want it."

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Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at) or paperboy(at), and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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Most Recent Comments
David Ray 05/20/04 12:51:04 PM EDT

How do you spell Java? D--O--T--N--E--T

Same game - different tactic. Hmmmm. Let's see... We can't vary the form of Java until it's form becomes unrecognizable... I GOT IT! Let's create a clone so that we can get Java to compete with itself!

So clever, it's almost lethally hilarious! :-P

(Dot) NOT!

...but seriously... The crucial difference is that Java remains whole. The contents of Java still have integrity and consistency such that we speak the same "Language" (ba dum bum). When you say Java, I know what it is your talking about without having to get into who's version and what customized API and function. Which is what will happen if there is no Monolith to assume legal responsibility...

Maybe this is unfortunate, but the real misfortune is that the consensus agenda is not to FORWARD technology, but to DOMINATE it for economic purposes. Some accuse Sun of doing this, but Java is too potent and meaningful a technology to trust to any other process. In other words, there exists those corporate entities that are constantly watching for Java's/Sun's achilles heel...

Eric Herman 05/19/04 04:55:43 PM EDT

Is Microsoft's Dot-Net meaningfully different from a Microsoft splinter of the Java platform?

David Ray 05/19/04 04:11:42 PM EDT

to David: Yes, but there is a difference between creating a JVM specifically tailored for a particular OS (Linux), and releasing all rights to Java as a platform - such that varying splinters to the API can be produced. Released to the Open Source community, the opportunity to add/make/sell additions to the API under the name "Java" is ever-present. This opportunity can then be exploited by those who wish Java harm and the community would have no recourse!

In order for a license to be binding, it must first exist - yes - but it also needs to be ENFORCED. In the real world, I don't see the Open Source community rallying both organized concentrated effort and $$$$ to hold violators accountable. There is simply not enough unification and organization to carry out a court battle such as what was levied against Microsoft.

Therefore the contractual verbage might as well cease to exist.

Java would be succeptible to the corporate whims of anybody. Sun hasn't been doing a bad job of keeping and forwarding the progress of Java in general - and guess what, Microsoft was defeated for the first time in history, even though it only received a slap on the wrist, we still don't have a splintered Java!

Benjamin 05/19/04 10:32:28 AM EDT

to Phil. Interesting question: open source as a vendor lock in technique. Simple answer: fragmentation of the language specification as a means to maneuver a client base (and potential client base) towards a desired direction. This is usually achieved by tearing down established standards in order to enable market domination to eliminate a level playing field.

Linux might be fun but its inability to guarantee binary compatiblity across flavours is the antithesis of the goal that attracted me to Java in the first place: write once, run anywhere. Don't forget why the UNIX camps failed to topple the MS empire. Its not ideal for OSs but to start fragmenting a language? That's a much more severe scenario. If IBM's intention is not to fragment the language then why abandon the JCP? In some ways its unfortunate that Sun never handed over the whole Java/J2SE/J2EE bucket to ISO. We probably wouldn't be even discussing this issue.

With regard to IBM's contribution to Linux I'm not in a position to say yea or nay simply because I started to tinker with Linux when it still had to be bootstrapped. And in any case Popular is not necessarily Good, and I came to Java seeking Good. Language specification anarchy is always Bad, irrespective of whoever does it. This is how the Microsoft/J++ lawsuit came about, remember?

I freely admit to being very sceptical about IBM's motivations and intentions if they become involved in this venture. This attitude is a result of being subject to its products in real projects and found them severely wanting (and yes, I'm still using IBM tools :-( due to non technical reasons). If they have been unable to produce tools-for-profit to a level of quality that is acceptable to me then why would I assume that their work on a new open source project would result otherwise?

David 05/18/04 06:04:55 PM EDT

Didn't the Blackdown team already create an open source version of Java for Linux? It seems like it would be the base for creating other versions targeted at Windows and other OSes.

David Ray 05/18/04 04:55:09 PM EDT


I love java, use it primarily and believe there is no reason to fix something that is not broken. This will splinter Java and ruin the whole enterprise. This was attempted underhandedly by Microsuck during Java's formative years by the attempt to provide an alternate Java implementation.



Eric Herman 05/18/04 02:00:27 PM EDT

Why would any of us go with Dot Net or Java if we could instead use an open java-like platform? If IBM were to lead an effort to provide the world with a java-like platform which was truely open source, wouldn't it be more compelling of a platform for everybody to use? IBM wouldn't be locked into Sun's vision of the future and we wouldn't be locked into IBM's. I hope IBM does it.

Ray Clough 05/18/04 12:34:39 PM EDT

Why would we care? If it is Java, it has to have the same functionality, no more, no less. Maybe the performance would improve, maybe the bug count would decrease. Who knows. But aside from that, open source Java from someone other than Sun doesn't have anything new. If they wanted new features, they'd still have to go thru the same JCR process. If they wanted to create libraries to augment the features, then they can do it now just as well as if the core Java implementation were open-source. The long and short of it is that Sun created it and can do with it what it wants. They have been pretty good stewards of it up to now. IBM has interest in horning in. We would all benefit more if the open-source Java chatter were muted and Sun and IBM started working together. Just one suggestion - implement a new GUI with architecture more like Swing, and performance, look and feel more like SWT. There would be a project for them to cooperate on!!

NotReally 05/18/04 11:52:29 AM EDT

to DavidB. And who wants to work on it? The point is that it's an IBM centric language and will remain that way until those legacy apps reach their end. The same fate will befall Java if IBM gets a hold of it. Basically a proprietary, platform centric language. Anyway, I doubt if the Justice department would allow the sale anyway so this whole point is moot. Sure IBM could have a proprietary version and that is exactly the same fate as Cobol. RPG is extremely popular among the IBM centric world and may rival Cobol in terms of lines of code at this point. But that again is IBM only.
The whole point is that IBM is trying to move all the business app development to Java, that's why the interest. They think they can sell more servers that way. IBM could care less about Cobol now. It doesn't matter how many legacy apps run Cobol.

javaboy 05/18/04 10:54:26 AM EDT

My understanding of Sun's reasons for opening Java in the way that they did (JCP, SSPL, etc) is that we can all have access to the code and they get to make a little money off it (in Licenses). Most of which they plough back in for development, marketing etc.

If it was open source where would the Legal team come from to stop someone using it for their own purposes. Don't forget IBM invented FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) and vendor lock in. They have embraced Linux and Java to help them manange their hardware portfolio sprawl not out of the kindness of their hearts ...

phil 05/18/04 10:12:07 AM EDT

Most of you seem to be under the impression that if IBM initiates an open source java, then some how IBM is the owner of it?

>>Why does IBM want open source? Simple - vendor (i.e. IBM) lock in.

WHAT!? Benjamin, you miss the entire point of open source. You couldn't be further from the truth - open source prevents vendor lock in, that was the reason that the open source movement began.

As for questioning IBMs intentions on open source, and whether or not they would actually donate it to open source - history is full of nothing but examples of IBM supporting open source. Take a look at ECLIPSE. They did not borrow, or steal ECLIPSE from anyone -but built it from scratch. It cost them more than $40 million dollars to do it -then what did they do with it? They donated it to open source. What about LINUX? It is my opinion that LINUX is so popular now, ONLY because of IBMs efforts and $$.

Benjamin 05/18/04 09:04:54 AM EDT

If IBM has all this capability on hand then why don't they expend some effort into turning WSAD into a real IDE? As someone who has moved from an M$ environment to Java (write once, run anywhere was the appeal) I can assert that the IBM development toolset in much inferior (I still use the .Net toolset) to Bill's. Surely IBM can't expect us to believe that opening up Java is for our benefit...

Why does IBM want open source? Simple - vendor (i.e. IBM) lock in. There are enough non-standard holes in the J2EE spec as it is without going for anarchy.

just learn your flash 05/18/04 09:00:41 AM EDT

and form the Flash Lobby, much less effort.

Or form The Learning Lobby for those of us forced to retool every several years. If Java were Lisp, I might get excited about it, but it's not, so move on.

David B 05/18/04 08:55:43 AM EDT

to NotReally...
"Will go the way of Cobol"????
Dude, there is more Cobol out there than all the others put together.

NotReally 05/18/04 06:56:54 AM EDT

Dear Author,

Your perceptions about IBM's ability are largely born of the stuff fiction is made. Anything IBM builds is mostly borrowed from what they did in the past. From mainframes to mini's, from OS to OS. Nothing is from "scratch". Therefore, their ability to "clean-room" a Java implementation is really their ability to borrow, beg and steal the code and protect themselves. In fact, all large software companies bank on the fact that they can out spend anyone on legal fees thus almost guaranteeing a high-level of protection. If their aggressors have the will to continue to pursue them, their software suffers and they can no longer survive anyway. Sun is now in the same boat as many also-rans and could not mount a winning legal strategy against IBM and survive.

As for Java, since the Desktop battle is over, it's only the server that matters, so banking on Java doesn't necc. guarantee IBM anything. Java has never really answered the performance issue and companies are leery of spending huge sums on expensive servers just for the privilege of supporting Java. IBM thinks Java is the way because they think Linux is the way to win more server business. In their view Linux and Java go hand in hand. Name a IBM language that has survived outside of IBM.

If IBM takes over Java will go the way of Cobol and all the other niche languages in the end. Guess who runs more Cobol than anyone? This is nothing but a "who cares" issue.

However, considering McNealy's pants down actions, I'm guessing he'd be willing to sell IBM the rights to Java, so they won't have to build it. Not such a bad idea.

javaboy 05/18/04 05:52:37 AM EDT

The questions I have to ask is Why?

If you have time on your hands to write an open source version of Java. Why not put that effort into the existing system (JCP) and make Java better, rather than wasting effort duplicating the existing work.

olumide 05/18/04 05:09:19 AM EDT

Lets stop this noise about open sourcing JAVA !!! I f we've got no other thing to do ..then we may want to look at offering advancements to the language rather by campaining for it to be open sourced. Why would someone keep pushing for Sun to open source Java ? What at the merits ? whatever merits that will be derived by opensourcing Java can also be achieved by using our time of campaining for opensource to bring about advancements to the language. Pls LETS STOP THIS MADNESS !!!

ado 05/18/04 03:08:40 AM EDT

This open source debate is tiresome. Why force Sun to risk their long term investment in Java by giving open license for anybody to implement the way they want? How come the Sun Java runtime is still by far the most popular in the face of implementations by all these other companies e.g. IBM's runtime? Beware the wolf in sheep's skin. Open source is not the best approach for EVERYTHING. It is very useful in some areas but not in others.

bk 05/17/04 10:10:53 PM EDT

If Java(tm) (under another name) goes open source then say bye bye to such Sun support and sponsored events like JavaOne(sm). Also, depending on the licensing, businesses will either have too little or too much interest in it. If it goes GPL, businesses won't want to touch it. If it's BSD, MS will take it over. Be careful what you ask for - you just might get it! Rather than "open" it, I favor standardizing it. I don't work for Sun either.

bk 05/17/04 10:07:42 PM EDT

If Java(tm) (under another name) goes open source then say bye bye to such Sun support and sponsored events like JavaOne(sm). Also, depending on the licensing, businesses will either have too little or too much interest in it. If it goes GPL, businesses won't want to touch it. If it's BSD, MS will take it over. Be careful what you ask for - you just might get it! Rather than "open" it, I favor standardizing it. I don't work for Sun either.

Ulf Pietruschka 05/17/04 06:27:24 PM EDT

"heard whispers that IBM already possesses more than one verifiably untainted implementation of the complete Java platform..."

whispers ??
more than one ??? (hahaha)
IBM has NO interest in providing an open source java implementation and thus they won't provide one.
They're asking Sun to make Java open source to simplify and push their own business. If they would own Java they wouln't open source it, too.
I really can't hear this open source shit any longer - (about java) - open source is a great thing in many areas, but this java open source discussion, meaning nothing else than "hey, just give us for free your multi-million dollar investment ..." is just an impertinence, considering, that Sun already gives you what you really need for free (ever thought about asking MS for making Win open source, he ?)

(I do not work for Sun)

yyyyy 05/17/04 10:15:00 AM EDT

Why is killing Sun or Microsoft a good thing?

Kajal Sinha 05/17/04 01:24:23 AM EDT

i need that. but this time the JVM should be faster than the Microsoft.NET CLR. i love java but due to performance problem i don't prefer for programming.

debianuser 05/15/04 09:43:46 PM EDT

Nice idea, but let's see what IBM does. I'd say do it, as competition will benefit us. However, Sun will fight it every bit of the way. GO IBM, build a better Java, completely open source, make your tools free, and you will kill, M$ and Sun.

xxx 05/14/04 10:42:26 PM EDT

Rick needs to take his meds.