Sun offers potpourri of open-source plans

Updates on OpenSolaris, Java, and GlassFish app server given at summit event

Sun offered informational updates Monday on several ongoing efforts in the open-source arena, including product plans for the OpenSolaris version of the Solaris OS, Java, and the GlassFish application server.

Cited were improvements like a binary release of OpenSolaris and plans for dynamic scripting support in Sun's Java Virtual Machine. Executives from throughout the company met with the media at Sun's headquarters campus for an open-source "summit" briefing.

"We have so many people who work on open source inside Sun," that they must be brought together for an annual conference, said Simon Phipps, chief open-source officer at the company.

Open source, Phipps said, features community developers who share source code licensed in a particular way and use that to create things that enrich them.

Contributions are given back to the community to enrich everyone, like the craft guilds of the Middle Ages, he said. "This has been called communism by some speakers. It's been called a cancer on society by others. I would suggest to you that this is more like capitalism, it is more like a connected capitalism where people synchronize their self interests so that they are collaborating together," said Phipps.

Sun has extensive product plans in open source, As part of Project Indiana, which is an effort to make Solaris more like Linux in areas like packaging, Sun will offer a developer preview of the OpenSolaris version of Solaris featuring a binary distribution this month. The general release version is planned for March 2008.

With the open-sourcing of Solaris two years ago, Solaris began to appear on the radar screen of open-source developers and deployers, said Ian Murdock, chief operating systems platform strategist at Sun and founder of the Debian Linux distribution.

"What we're trying to do is make it easier for people to get into the OpenSolaris community, and we do that by delivering [the OS] in binary form," said Murdock.

A packaging system in OpenSolaris, which will be featured in the preview and is called Image Package System, will take a snapshot of a system prior to an upgrade. Users can roll back to what the system looked like before the upgrade if necessary.

An analyst in attendance welcomed Sun's update on Project Indiana.

"I think there's still some ambiguity on what is the future of Solaris in a Linux world," said Raven Zachary, research director for open source at The 451 group. But there is an opportunity for Sun to engage Linux and take advantage of Linux technology the same way Linux has leveraged Solaris technology like the DTrace tracing framework, Zachary said.

Plans also call for Solaris to be offered in a more modular fashion, so it could be used in different systems ranging from servers and desktops to appliances. A port of Solaris to the PowerPC plan also is being developed.

Sun officials talk OpenJDK, GlassFish, and iPhone

Sun officials also discussed progress of OpenJDK, which is the open-source Java development kit for Java Platform, Standard Edition. About 96 percent of Java code has been cleared for use in the open-sourcing of Java, said Mark Reinhold, Sun chief engineer for Java Platform Standard Edition.

Afoot is a "kitchen sink" language project to explore new language features that could wind up in Java. Another effort project is intended to improve performance of languages other than Java, such as Ruby and Python, to run on the HotSpot Virtual Machine.

OpenJDK is switching to the Mercurial version control system, enabling contributions from the community at large. Meanwhile, an OpenJDK governance board has been formed to oversee OpenJDK.

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Red Hat has created a project called Ice Tea to make OpenJDK run better in a Linux environment, Reinhold said.

Asked about the role of the Apache Harmony project, an open-source Java project that preceded Sun's November 2006 open-sourcing of Java, Phipps said it was great to have an independent implementation of the Java specifications. But he stressed he favored a strong OpenJDK community as well.

Meanwhile, Sun officials put the ball in Apple Computer's court as far as porting of Java to the popular iPhone, which currently does not support Java. iPhone is a closed platform, said Murdock.

"Even if we did put Java on the iPhone, Apple would take it off again," Phipps added.

Another project, the open-source GlassFish application server, entails development of projects like Grizzly, a high-performance I/O infrastructure. Other projects based around GlassFish include Japex for Web services performance and Hudson, which provides an integration tool.

Version 2 of GlassFish was launched three weeks ago. The next version will support such languages as JRuby, PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor), and Scala.

Also at the event:

  • Phipps said the data format in Microsoft Office is partially open because Sun "shamed" Microsoft into opening it.
  • Sun's Josh Berkus, who serves on the core development team for the open-source, multi-party PostgreSQL database, said the beta release of 8.3 of the database was released last week. It features improvements in performance and consistency as well Visual C++ capabilities. Storage has made more efficient by as much as 20 percent. The final release is expected in seven to nine weeks. Manageability improvements are planned for a future release.
  • There are no plans to open-source the Java trademark, said Tiki Dare, Sun director of trademarks. It is unclear what such a move would mean anyway, Dare said. She questioned whether this might mean that the trademark could be used on any product whether or not it meets Java quality control standards.