What’s Sun’s interest in OpenJDK?

In response to a comment on one of my previous posts, I’d like to elaborate and speculate on this question a little.

I agree that Sun’s first interest is money. Sure, they can tell us they are doing it for idealistic reasons, or practical reasons, but you know, it’s a shareholder company and shareholder companies are bound to be after the money as their first interest. No arguing about that. However, I don’t think that Sun is only doing all this as marketing move to get some hype. This would be very short-sighted and narrow-minded.

So you might ask, we are living in a free market, and everybody’s playing against each other, where’s the money for Sun in opening up Solaris, Netbeans and Java’s code, effectively giving all the competitors an advantage, and even effectively giving them their millions of work-hours (== money) that they put in these products, if it’s not the marketing hype that follows the announcements? Well, Simon Phipps explained this nicely at FOSDEM, I can’t repeat his words so I’ll try it with my own.

Let’s take for example aicas, a small company producing a realtime capable VM (the one I’m working for). In the past, we were building around GNU Classpath as a class library for the VM, and will continue to use it for a couple of packages. You’d think that it is kindof stupid for Sun to open up their code, so that competitors like us can leverage their work and manpower and code into our own VM (Sun also has an embedded – maybe even realtime, dunno – track of their own VM). But have a look at the big picture. This move effectively helps to join forces. Sun is practically helping many small companies and VM vendors by opening up their complete Java stack. These many small vendors in turn are then able to move forward with their specific technology, instead of reimplementing the wheel again and again. It creates a level playing ground for all of them. This has the seemingly paradox effect that it stimulates competition at a completely different (and IMO more fair) level, and that on the other hand all these parties can join forces in drive Java itself forward, possibly breaking new ground for Java, which Sun alone wouldn’t be able (and has no interest in) to do (like, for example, realtime applications). This of course helps everybody involved.

This is of course very visionary and nobody really knows how it can and will work out. But in order to even have a chance to play out well, it is vitally important that Sun not only takes this as a marketing action, because it would then miss all the important advantages that this move could have. It is really important that Sun manages to create a healthy community, that it works together with the community rather than only publishing some code drops now and then (like it seems to happen in another popular free JDK project). Then, and only then, everybody can benefit. This is the reason why I’m complaining, not because I’m a Linux zealot GPL whining hippie 😉

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3 Responses to What’s Sun’s interest in OpenJDK?

  1. I always have to wince when I hear people talking about a company _building_ or _creating_ (or worse _owning_) the community of their users, especially an open-source community. Of course they usually mean that the company needs to put effort into working with the group, but why is it so hard to say it that way?

    In Sun’s particular case with OpenJDK, the main things they need to do are _recognize_ and _acknowledge_ the existing community and be willing to work with us, even though it will mean some changes to the way they worked before. The exchange of ideas in the form of code is important, but the exchange of other information, including bug trackers and task lists, may well be more important.

    I think some people at Sun understand and accept this and are working on it. In the meantime weblogs such as yours are a sign for them that the community is interested in working with them.

    -james.

  2. Dmitri Trembovetski says:

    > the main things they need to do are _recognize_ and _acknowledge_ the existing community and be willing to work with us, even though it will mean some changes to the way they worked before.

    I think the choice of the license for openjdk, for one, is a good indicator that this is what we had in mind – joining the communities (after all, we all who worked on the jdk all these years at Sun _is_ a community, too).

    Sure, it will take time for us to change the way we worked.

    Anyway, I do appreciate Roman’s blog, as it helps with understanding of the issues we need to resolve asap.

    Dmitri
    Java2D Team

  3. Pingback: My Hobby is Programming » Blog Archive » What’s Sun’s interest in OpenJDK?

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