SAN FRANCISCO Sun Microsystems Inc. will make its Java software available on an open-source basis and embrace Linux broadly on its Sparc-based computers, the company said Tuesday (May 16).
The move, announced at the annual JavaOne conference here, is part of the strategy of recently named chief executive Jonathan Schwartz for returning the beleaguered computer maker to growth and profits.
Sun executives are still determining just how and when they will make Java open source. However, the company is expected to formally announce within a week support for at least one Linux distribution on its new Niagara-based Sparc computers.
The plans parallel Sun's past moves to make its Solaris operating system open source and to embrace x86-based computers as part of its product line. Sun has been struggling to return to growth and profits since the industry downturn in 2000.
“We want to grow our revenue as much as possible, and that starts with getting Java used as broadly as possible," Schwartz said following the annoucement in a keynote speech.
Asked when Java would be made fully open source, Schwartz said, "The answer is as soon as possible." Rich Green, Sun's executive vice president of software, said he could give no timetable for the process because it will involve an increasingly broad group of developers.
Making Java open while preserving compatibility is the chief challenge, said Green. “No one wants to see us destroy the Java platform,” he said.
Sun is emphasizing use of its Java code generator, NetBeans, as one way to preserve compatibility. The company made its Enterprise Edition of Java open source about a year ago using a special Common Development and Distribution License that is also applies to Open Solaris. The CDDL license lets users make extensions to the software for their own systems without a requirement to publish them as long as customers are willing to forgo some patent protections from Sun.
Regarding Linux, Schwartz said, “Free software is about growing adoption for a community sensitive to price. We now have apporoaching five million licenses to Open Solaris,” he said.
Canonical Ltd. (Isle of Man) will become the first company to support a distribution of Linux on Sparc, targeting the Niagara systems. Schwartz suggested the close relationship between Sun and Jboss, a developer of middleware, could lead to support for Red Hat Linux on Sparc after Red Hat Inc. (Raleigh, N.C.) completes its acquisition of Atlanta-based JBoss Inc. at the end of May.