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Competitors: IBM-Sun Would Be Good for Java

In the beginning (1995), Java was created by Sun Microsystems. Then Sun saw that Java was bigger than just Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA) and opened up the process of building Java with the Java Community Process (JCP) in 1998. Yet now with rumors of IBM acquiring Sun swirling, the Java community could undergo its most significant change in a decade.

There have been questions about Sun's leadership of the JCP for years dating back to at least 2002 and percolating still with the soon to be finalized JavaEE 6 specification as well. With IBM (NYSE: IBM) owning Sun, leadership of the JCP could shift and that would be a change welcomed by members of the executive committee of the JCP as well as Java stakeholders outside of the JCP.

"Sun's inability to invest in the JCP combined with its desire to maintain control is stifling the innovation and investment in Java," Rich Sharples, director of product management at JBoss, told InternetNews.com.

Red Hat is a member of the JCP Executive Committee which oversees the JCP. Sharples notes that what drives many of Red Hat's contributions is the desire to make Java simpler to use for more people while retaining the power of the platform. JBoss contributions to the JCP include EJB 3 (nterprise java beans), Web Beans, Seam Framework and Hibernate.

"All JSR's require a reference implementation which is a huge burden for the spec," Sharples argued. "Other standards bodies don't require reference implementations. (JSR stands for Java Specification Request).

The openness of the JCP is something that JCP executive committee Rod Johnson, CEO of SpringSource also has concerns about.

"The JCP is still less open than we would like," Johnson told InternetNews.com. "However, there have definitely been improvements in the last few years."

SpringSource develops a lightweight framework for Java that runs on Java middleware from a number of vendors including Red Hat JBoss, Oracle and IBM.

Does Sun have too much influence in the JCP?

Red Hat's Sharples noted that early in Java's evolution - it needed control and direction and investment and Sun did a great job.

"In the last 5 or so years as Java has become mainstream and really successful and Sun's control is now limiting its growth," Sharples alleged. SpringSource's Johnson went a step further arguing that in his view Sun does have too much influence in the JCP.

"Broadly speaking, if Sun wants something, it happens; if they don't want it, it doesn't happen," Johnson said.

At least one vendor in the Java system doesn't participate in the JPC at all due to concerns about its organization.

"MuleSource does not have active participation with the JCP," Ross Mason CTO and founder of MuleSource, told InternetNews.com. "While we believe the JCP was set up with good intentions, it has turned into a community that is out of touch with Java and driven by stakeholders with conflicting agendas."

Mason argued that the JCP no longer works on real standards, but rather what he referred to as pseudo-standards. That is standards where the reach is too broad or ones that do not or cannot fully understand the problem domain.

"A standard should be a set of well defined rules that address a well-defined problem, the solution should be discrete, simple and easily understood," Mason stated. "However, there seems to be a propensity to create new standards around pieces of the software stack that will never be standard until we've been through enough cycles to truly understand how the problem is best solved."

Mason added that he didn't think that Sun has managed the JCP well. In his view it's a process that now creates standards that ignores what the Java community really wants or needs.

Next page: Sun's View