Long time member of the Java community. Author of JHTML and the SmugMug Java API, worked with the DZone crew for a while and Product Services Manager at Genuitec. Also the creator of The "Break it Down" Blog and comedy site Up My Own Ass. Riyad has posted 6 posts at DZone. View Full User Profile

Sun's Open Source Java Right Around the Corner... doh!

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News trickled out this morning that Sun is a few months out from preparing the last pieces to it's own fully Open Sourced/free version of Java -- after getting the company behind Java2D rendering technology to agree to Open Sourcing the code and decided to rewrite the sound APIs when the author company refused to play ball.

This, following last week's news that RedHat's Open Source version of Java, IcedTea, had finally passed the Java Test Compatibility Kit (TCK) which I believe is the biggest hurdle to becoming a "real Java implementation".

Given RedHat's position in the market and platform deployment reach (customers), is anyone else worried that this is the beginning of Java's fragmentation that has been discussed in the past? I doubt RedHat is going to kick IcedTea to the side in a few months after Sun releases their work. So now we have two actively developed Java platforms that are almost compatible with eachother, or compatible enough that they seem interchangable to most folks? (they never are... not a code base that big, and not with only 80k tests verifying it)

I'm normally a fan of choice, but in this case I don't see choice... I see incompatibility nightmares.

Maybe I'm just being pessimistic... anybody want to point out to me how this is awesome news? I will conceede that RedHat's announcement likely pushed up any Sun plans to Open Source the JDK, so that part probably helped, but then again I don't think Sun would have sat on their hands w.r.t. to the Open Sourcing of Java given all the fan-fair over the years... so it was coming anyway... now we just have two.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Riyad Kalla. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


John J. Franey replied on Tue, 2008/06/24 - 4:16pm

I doubt any of the business minds at RedHat sit around thinking "OMG we better not piss of the community", if they can find a business case for vendor-specific tie-in (and eventually lock-in) to their platform, they'll do it.


Vendor lock-in is common strategy.  I couldn't say if RedHat employs it but based on Rich Sharples contribution to this thread, RedHat is currently distancing itself from the strategy with respect to java vm.

Any business case would have to consider the bottom-line cost of 'pissing off the community', of course. :)


I think the posturing behind your own Java platform is more significant than some hand-waving and unicorn-goodness to suggest that a fork will never happen. 


You're right here, too.


 I don't think it's unfair of people to assume that RedHat, at some point, may try and make a business case for their version of Java over the standard OpenJDK distribution.


I think there are forces at work that render a business case for strategic vendor lock-in elusive for the long-term.  I think a GPL java (openJDK), availability of multiple implementations of TCK java and non java based server platforms, user and community involvement, and enormous tool/application/library code base are real (not mythical) safeguards that makes vendor lockin difficult and expensive.  Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but I'd feel safer if java was GPL3.

So, I'm out on a limb.  How about you?  What forces, other than desire to make money, are at play that make vendor lockin easy and cheap?


Riyad Kalla replied on Tue, 2008/06/24 - 4:19pm in response to: John J. Franey

Well put John. I support your right that there are safe guards in the Java realm that make it an uphill battle to try and fork the language off.

Thanks for the insight.

JeffS replied on Wed, 2008/06/25 - 8:47am

But it's not a fork.  IcedTea is intended to be a temporary stop gap, using 96% Sun OpenJDK code, and only replacing the final encumbered bits, and intended to be 100% compatible, only until Sun itself is able to release a 100% GPL JDK.


What are the future plans for IcedTea?

IcedTea is a basis on which to experiment, trying to build a completely FOSS (free & open source software) version of the OpenJDK. Ideally, we would like to work upsteam directly on the OpenJDK, but there are some legal and technical issues that must first be resolved.

IcedTea is not a fork, and is not meant to be a permanent project - just a stopgap measure to create a fully FOSS OpenJDK.



Riyad Kalla replied on Wed, 2008/06/25 - 9:54am in response to: JeffS

Jeff, good link... although Rich's comment (here) did make IcedTea seem like a more permanent fixture than that FAQ suggests.

Not that it's a big deal, just something to ponder.

Jeroen Wenting replied on Tue, 2008/07/01 - 12:34am in response to: Brendon


FUD.  I think you're possibly insulting the intelligence of an entire community; especially the standards-obsessed Java community.  If it doesn't pass the TCK, it's not Java.  If it's not Java, no-one will use it. [/quote]

The community is completely irrelevant. Most of the time software developers have very little (if any) say in the environments they'll be using on a project.
Sysadmins have more say, and if they have RedHat Enterprise running on their servers they're going to demand you use RedHat's implementation whether it passes the TCK or not.

Managers have even more say, and they couldn't care less. They just see reduced expense from using a "free" version that comes preinstalled on those RedHat equipped servers as opposed to having to manually install a Sun implementation so they won't back you up if you complain to them that you don't want to use RedHat's version because it doesn't pass the TCK.

And many people WILL use RedHat's version, if it's what comes with their machines.
It's only a matter of time before RedHat makes a Windows version and contracts to say Dell or HP to bundle it with all their hardware (in the same way Norton gets their crap bundled with pretty much everything).
That way it will ship with hundreds of thousands if not millions of PCs each year, giving managers an even stronger incentive to force you, the developer, to use it as their potential customers already have it.

We've seen it all before, in fact quite a few people complain that that's how Microsoft became so big...

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