RealTime IT News

Sun And IBM Come to Terms

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sun Microsystems and IBM put aside their differences over open source and extended their technology agreement for another 10 years.

The announcement was made here at JavaOne, Sun's developer conference, and it accompanied announcements of the release of more Sun code to open source.

It's not a coincidence. Sun has been under increasing pressure to open source Java, and Rod Smith, IBM vice president of emerging technologies, fanned the fire with a March 2004 open letter to Sun vice president Rob Gingell. Smith suggested the two companies work together to create an open source version of Java. The letter coalesced dissatisfaction with Sun's control of the technology.

"There has been a chill in our relationship with IBM," Sun president and COO Jonathan Schwartz told conference attendees. "IBM is every bit a founder of the Java community, and we've been trying to reach out to them and others in the industry like Microsoft and Fujitsu."

The fruit of that outreach is the agreement for IBM to license and use Java Platform Enterprise, Standard and Micro Editions, as well as Java Card, throughout its software products. Specifically, IBM will port its WebSphere middleware to Solaris 10 for x86 hardware, while adding support for the OS to its DB2, Rational and Tivoli products.

Schwartz wouldn't comment on whether Monday's announcement that Sun had open sourced its Java System Application Server Platform Edition 9.0 and the Java System Enterprise Server Bus were the result of the yearlong negotiations with IBM.

Steve Mills, IBM software vice president and group executive, said his company's customers had asked for Solaris support. The agreement will allow businesses that run on Sun's workstations to take advantage of IBM middleware, while the availability of the popular WebSphere could make the workstations more attractive.

The two companies will continue to work together in the Java Community Process.

In a Q&A session after the keynotes, Schwartz and Sun CEO Scott McNealy were a bit defensive about the open source pressure.

"We are the leaders in open source," McNealy insisted. "We're number one. There's nobody close to having donated as much open source. Every time we see the right and appropriate way to do something, we do it."

Schwartz said the company's hesitation came from its desire to make sure that any code released remained interoperable and free of intellectual property issues.

He pointed out that the process of specifying the functionality of Java is determined by the Java Community Process. "That isn't controlled by Sun," he said. "There has to be a multi-party process of evolving the platform."