Sun will publish its Java System Application Server under a form of open source licence, company president Jonathan Schwartz announced this week.
However, the move has received no positive reaction from technology and financial observers who remain unconvinced that Sun is serious about open source.
The company also announced that IBM will also be extending its licensing of Java technologies, and revealed both the latest Java developments and a road map for the technology.
The open source release of the Java System Application Server Platform Edition 9.0 -- Sun's manifestation of the Java Enterprise Edition 5 specification - was formally announced. The system is available as part of Project GlassFish, released last week.
Sun also announced the open source Java System Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), which is based on the Java Business Integration (JBI) 1.0 specification. Both play a key role in Sun's strategy for enabling development of SOAs.
One analyst, though, was sceptical. JBI provides onramps and off-ramps to an ESB but is not an ESB technology itself, according to Dana Gardner, senior analyst at Yankee Group. "It's a little bit of semantic gymnastics to be calling what they're doing an ESB. Only a few months ago they didn't think ESBs were important," Gardner said.
A future release of Java Studio Enterprise, meanwhile, will feature service creation, orchestration and data mapping. An early access programme for Java Studio Enterprise 8, with code-aware developer collaboration, begins this summer.
Sun is dropping the number "2" nomenclature in its Java names, said Graham Hamilton, a Sun vice president and fellow. Future releases will not be called "Java 2 Enterprise Edition." However, "we're not going to try to rename existing releases," Hamilton said.
The upcoming Java Standard Edition 6, code-named Mustang, is due in 2006. It will feature ease of development, XML and Web-services enhancements, and desktop improvements, Hamilton said. Included are a Web-services client stack, enabling clients to connect to Web services, a revamped XML stack, a new scripting engine, and declarative programming support with this improvement, said Hamilton.
An improved end-user experience will provide a Microsoft Longhorn look and feel, apparently. Longhorn is the next major upgrade to Windows. "You shouldn't look like Windows XP apps [when] running on Longhorn," Hamilton said
Core system improvements in Mustang include a simpler and faster code verifier and enhanced file I/O. "Every week, we are publishing the complete source binary documentation for internal builds" of Mustang, Hamilton said. Project Mustang is available in an early form at mustang.dev.java.net.
Java Standard Edition 7, code-named Dolphin, is due in early 2008. Sun is pondering features such as direct Java language support for XML, including XML manipulation, for this release, Hamilton said.
Also being considered are extended use of generics in the JMX (Java Management Extensions) API and use of annotations for writing MBeans. Administration improvements also are being planned, including the packaging of Java technology code and resources into modules that identify resources and dependencies. XML Web services will be used for remote management of the platform with JMX API.
The Java Virtual Machine may be extended to support other languages, such as Groovy. Sun also is pondering ideas on using metadata in versioning and packaging.
In the enterprise version of Java, Sun is eyeing simplification for developers. "[Java is] the industry standard for enterprise applications. But still, many developers find it difficult to get started with Java Enterprise Edition," said Bill Shannon, Distinguished Engineer at Sun. Use of programs based on "Plain Old Java Objects" is planned, Shannon said. This elicited applause from the audience.
The upcoming Java Enterprise Edition 5 release will feature simplified Web-services support and more support of Web-services standards, Shannon said. A beta of Version 5 is due in the last quarter of this year, with the final release set for first quarter 2006.
Taking a page from Microsoft's planned Indigo Web-services technology, Java Enterprise Edition 5 will enable development of a Web service with only a few lines of code. "We're making it much easier for you to write a Web service with Enterprise Edition 5," Shannon said.
Version 5 also resolves the conflict in object persistence methods that has been brewing between the Enterprise JavaBeans and Java Data Objects specifications. The new technology is based on a draft of EJB 3, Shannon said.
In detailing IBM's renewal of its Java agreement, Schwartz acknowledged that there has been "a little bit of a chill" in the relationship between the two vendors. But IBM and Sun announced an 11-year extension to their Java technology agreement. IBM will continue to license Java technologies from Sun including the Enterprise, Standard and Micro editions of Java as well as Java Card technologies. IBM also will continue participating in the Java Community Process.
In addition, IBM will port its DB2, Tivoli and WebSphere middleware to Sun's Solaris 10 OS. The agreement, said Robert LeBlanc, general manager of the WebSphere product line at IBM, shows that IBM and Sun are in Java for the long haul.
The existence of eight conference sessions focused on Microsoft technology was noted. "Who would have anticipated that we would be welcoming Microsoft to JavaOne," asked John Gage, chief researcher and director of the science office at Sun. "So this is a community that's changing."
Additionally, Sun officials said the DTrace system diagnosis tool in Solaris would be moved over to Java as well.
Sun also announced the Sun Ultra 20 workstation, which is a dual-core, AMD Opteron-based system available for $29.95 per month for a three-year subscription. It will be bundled with Sun tools such as the Studio Creator and Studio Enterprise tools along with C++ and Fortran offerings. The system is available for a 90-day tryout as well.
At a subsequent press conference, Sun Chairman/CEO Scott McNealy acknowledged Sun has made some mistakes with its now 10-year-old Java technology. "Sure we made mistakes along the way, I wish we could have monetised all the Java revenue," McNealy said. "But if we hadn't opened the Java world up, the market opportunities would be nowhere near what they are today. I don't have any huge regrets."
"I don't know any development community ever that has had the volume, adoption and success as an industry that [Java] has," McNealy said.
Sun has been plagued by poor results ever since the collapse of the dotcom boom. While most of its competitors have regrouped or gone bust, Sun sits in an uncomfortable middle ground: no profits and a dwindling cash mountain - not helped by the high-profile and very expensive acquisition of StorageTek this month.
Many believe that Sun has been dragged by circumstance into opening its source code, something it has always been very reluctant to do. While Java is developed under what it calls a "community process" analogous to that used by open source developers such as Red Hat, the process is dominated by Sun and the source code for Java, the company's one big success story, remains closed.
The reaction of Wall Street suggested that investors believe this latest reluctant semi-conversion to open source is too little too late, as Sun's share price was unchanged at close of business on the day of the announcement.