In a warming of relations between the two companies, open source software vendor JBoss Group LLC has signed up as a member of the Java Community Process (JCP), the group that defines Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java standards.
The agreement means that all JBoss developers will now be eligible to participate in the "expert groups" that develop Java standards. In return, JBoss will pay Sun US$5,000 per year, said Bob Bickel, vice president of strategy and corporate development at JBoss. Previously, JBoss developers had joined the JCP on an individual basis, he said.
"More of our people will now have easier access than they did before," he said. "This is another symbol of JBoss wanting to work with the (Java) community and put any past tensions of working with JBoss behind us."
JBoss is an Atlanta-based company that sponsors the development of the open source JBoss J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) application server.
While the move will make it easier for JBoss's developers to contribute to emerging Java standards, it will not resolve the central point of contention between the two companies: JBoss's inability to achieve J2EE certification for its open source application server.
The nagging issue has been whether or not Sun's J2EE certification process is ultimately compatible with open source software, said Bickel.
JBoss had been pressing Sun to offer it free access and technical support to the TCK (technology compatibility kit) software that Java vendors must use to certify their products as J2EE-compliant. The Atlanta company claimed that JBoss should receive special consideration because of the open source nature of the project.
But that point of contention has been dropped, Bickel said. JBoss is now willing to pay for access to the TCK and all that remains is for Sun's legal department to devise a contract that is compatible with JBoss's open source software. "I think Sun just has backlogs in (its) legal (department) and they want to make sure that when they do it for open source, they get it right," he said.
A closer relationship with Sun may help stem user defections to JBoss's rival, The Apache Software Foundation's Geronimo project, said JBoss user Dave Gallaher, who is the director of IT development for Jefferson County in Colorado. "I wonder if Geronimo scared the hell out of them. There were a lot of people who were defecting," he said.
Gallaher applauded JBoss's effort to forge a closer relationship with Sun and the JCP. "I can see that as nothing but good news," he said.
Sun could not immediately be reached for comment on this story.