Apache Talks Open Source Java

Open source advocates clamoring for Sun Microsystems to open up
their lock on Java may have found an answer in an Apache project named
Harmony.

Under a proposal posted Friday to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF)
Incubator, the group said Apache could sponsor a rebuild of the
Java 2, Standard Edition (J2SE) runtime platform from the ground up.

The full-scale implementation based on version 5.0 (Tiger) would be
regulated under the open source Apache License 2.0 and include a
community-developed modular run time (a virtual machine for running on
PCs and other devices, as well as a class library for developers) and an
interoperability test suite.

The result would be a Java-compatible package that could be more
appealing to open source advocates who are leery of any fine print that
Sun Microsystems puts in its donations, such as some of the bindings in
OpenOffice.org.

While Sun executives have traditionally dismissed any suggestion that the company would freely submit the code to
one of the pillars of the company, Harmony has garnered a blessing from
the company in these early stages.

Sun’s chief technologist for Java Software, Graham Hamilton, said he
welcomes Apache’s Harmony initiative and its commitment to compatibility
with JCP specifications.

“We’ll certainly be tracking this as it develops. We’ll probably
participate in the project at some level, although most of our efforts
will continue to be focused on building Sun’s reference implementation
of J2SE,” Hamilton said in a recent blog post.

“Personally, I am not entirely
sure if the world really needs a second J2SE implementation, but at the
same time, I am also glad to see that all the effort we put into getting
the rules and the licensing issues straightened out is actually proving
useful.”

Harmony backers said their plan is simple and straightforward enough
that they could begin coding immediately.

“It is meant to be a gathering of the tribes,” Danese Cooper, open source guru and prominent advocate for open source Java, told
internetnews.com. “It is not enough to have a JVM or a class
library; you need the whole TCK [Technology Compatibility Kit].”

Cooper said the breakthrough came during a November meeting in
Cambridge, England, when Jakarta Project chairman Geir Magnusson and
others began discussing the proposal openly and honing in on the various
parties that would be involved.

“Once Geronimo happened,” Cooper said, “everyone knew the next step was Harmony. It was just a matter of Tiger finalizing and then a question of finding
someone that could accept the TCK.”

In its proposal, the Harmony group noted that there is a clear need
for an open source version of J2SE. Currently, there are many ongoing
efforts to produce solutions. There are also efforts that provide alternative approaches to the execution of Java bytecode from programs like the GNU Compiler for Java and IKVM, a Java Virtual Machine for the .NET
Framework.

“All of these efforts provide a diversity of solutions, which is
healthy, but barriers exist which prevent these efforts from reaching a
greater potential,” Magnusson said in a statement.

The only caveat at this point is that Apache wants to protect itself,
its contributors and its users, from unauthorized incorporation of code or
other intellectual property. Harmony backers said the group would
explore additional ways to work with the Apache Incubator to ensure that
all IP is carefully monitored and tracked as it enters the project.

The Harmony proposal now goes in front of the Incubator panel for
review. No timeframe for response was given.

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