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Apache, Sun Make Peace Over Java - InternetNews.
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Apache, Sun Make Peace Over Java

After nearly a year of intense discussions, the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) Tuesday said it has reached an agreement with Sun Microsystems Inc. and members of the Java Community Process (JCP) to secure the right to use Java in open source -- a huge win for the group of developers who fought long and hard to pry Java licenses from Sun's grip.

Sun has long owned licenses prohibiting the use of Java for open source and testing. Now Sun has pledged to use licenses that allow open source independent use for all of its Java specifications and test compatibility kits. This goes for all past Java specs, as well as future use of the architecture. Sun executives will make the announcement Tuesday live at the JavaOne Conference in San Francisco.

Tuesday's pact between Sun and Apache could do much to assuage hard feelings between both parties, but this won't necessarily make things rosy for the rest of the open source world. To be sure, tensions between Sun and the open source community have grown since September 2001, when privately-held Lutris Technologies of Santa Cruz, Calif., was denied certification for Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) compliance in its Enhydra product, an enterprise application server that's made to sit atop open source OS like Linux running Apache.

After public outcry, Sun officials defended the company's stance by claiming that they were concerned that open source efforts might halt the momentum of J2EE.

Apache responded by calling Sun out, saying Sun's representation of Apache in the JCP was more or less a lot of smoke and mirrors designed to make Sun seem as though it has more of an open source bent than it actually supports.

However, Lutris CEO Yancy Lind told InternetNews.com he doesn't believe Sun's concessions adequately address what the open source community has been asking for, which is wholesale, open source access to Java.

"...They are mostly Web Services things and the stuff they already agreed to open source (JSP/servlets). No mention of core Java, J2EE, or J2ME pieces," Lind said. "I think that the initial enthusiasm about Sun "opening up" Java may be slightly misplaced. Specifically, Sun has stated that they are working on a new set of rules that will be implemented 'several months away'. When implemented these rules will apply to new JSRs and in-process JSRs only. Thus the vast majority of Java specifications will not be impacted by this announcement. I don't think this is what the open source community has been asking for... it seems to be far from a blanket open-sourcing of Java."

Apache's agreement with Sun comes after it raised four concerns in January 2002, which the organization essentially laid down as a tenet for it to continue participation in the Java Community Process.

Apache demanded: the right to freely implement specifications in open source; the right for specification leads to release reference implementations and test kits in open source; the right for specifications to be created more publicly; and the right to free access to test kits by open source, non-profit, and academic groups.

Sun's response after a couple of months? Effective immediately, according to Robert A. Gingell, Sun Fellow & Vice President Chair of the Java Community Process:

  • Sun-led specifications finalized from here forward: (including revisions to existing specifications) will allow independent implementations under open source licenses
  • The Test Compatibility Kit (TCK) binaries for these specifications will be made available at no cost to qualified open source, non-profit, and academic groups
  • A three-member board, including a representative from the Apache Software Foundation, will assure an impartial qualification process
  • Sun will provide substantial support to aid these qualified groups in the use and execution of the TCKs

Sun will also revise its JCP legal agreement, the Java Specification Participation Agreement (JSPA).

ASF expressed its satisfaction in a public statement.

"It gives us great pleasure to have served the interests of the wider open source community, largely made up of individuals and small groups who may not have the resources and visibility to establish this level of dialog," said Jason Hunter, ASF vice president of Java Community Process. "To satisfy this trust, the ASF will be closely monitoring the implementation details of the contents of this agreement to ensure the gains represented by this agreement are not lost."

Hunter affirmed that Sun's agreement will pave the way for wider adoption of Java technology.