Sun to release open source Java in weeks

Sun plans to release code under both open source and commercial licence

Sun Microsystems is just weeks away from releasing the first part of the Java code into the open source world, says Matt Thompson, director of the Sun Developer Network. Thompson wouldn’t disclose an exact date, but says that the first parts of the code — such as the Java C programme compiler and the Hotspot virtual machine — will be released “literally within weeks”.

Thompson visited New Zealand last week when Sun held its Developer Day in Auckland.

“We are going to [eventually] open source all of the Java components,” he says.

The rest of the Java SE (Standard Edition) code will be open sourced next year. In addition, Sun will release all of Java Micro Edition (ME), the version for gadgets such as mobile phones, by the end of this year, according to Laurie Tolson, Sun’s vice president of developer products and programmes.

Sun plans to release the code under an open source licence and a commercial licence. Thompson says that it’s not going to be “one or the other” as the two licences need to work together. Sun expects that the community will interact under an open source licence, while Sun’s enterprise customers will want to deal with the company under a commercial licence, which will, for example, allow them to mix the code with proprietary software without having to publish the changes.

Indemnification, legal issues and protection of for example big data centres are other issues that are important to enterprise customers, and that could be difficult to cover under an open source licence, says Thompson.

The Sun Developer Network has seen its largest growth ever over the last year. Over one million new members registered in the last 12 months, says Thompson.

The main reason for this tremendous membership growth is that the Java platform and tools have gone through a major evolution in the last 18 months, says Thompson. Examples of that evolution are the Netbeans tool set, which allows developers to quickly build Web 2.0 applications; smart phones running Java and open-sourcing Solaris and the Java SE, he says.

“Without these things developers would not be interested [in joining the SDN],” he says.

Also, Sun’s education programmes attract developers, he says. The programmes help train developers on new technologies in different areas, which could help them get ahead in their jobs.

Sun does not use traditional marketing to reach out to developers, as they generally don’t pay attention to that kind of message, says Thompson.

“Geek-to-geek is the only thing that works,” he says.

Therefore, SDN’s main communication channel is get-togethers like Java One, worldwide Sun Tech Days, Developer Days and developer groups.

The company uses the web to communicate and interact with the developer community, for example via blogs, he says.