Sun CTO on open-source Java effort

Sun's chief technology officer for software, Bob Brewin, talks about the company's work to make its Java Standard Edition open-source

Sun Microsystems Monday unveiled a new Web portal that will detail its efforts to make its Java programming language available as open-source code. Bob Brewin, Sun's chief technology officer for software, talked to Computerworld Tuesday about the company's work to make its Java SE (Standard Edition) open-source.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

What is the goal for the new portal?

The goal for the portal is transparency. We do want to make sure that this is not just open-source, but an open community. There have been open-source projects in the past industrywide where it is just, "Here is our source -- do what you want." The only way we can do that is to really engage the existing open-source communities out there and ask them for their advice, guidance and opinions.

Where do you stand in the effort to open-source Java?

Now we are currently planning to release significant pieces of our functionality in the fall. A Java programming compiler and the HotSpot Virtual Machine are examples. As we make sure the source is ready to go, we'll begin releasing code over a period of time until we get the entire body out there.

What types of problems have you encountered so far in this effort?

Identifying the various intellectual property encumbrances that might exist. An example is within the graphics library -- there are font rasterizers, which allow you to represent characters on the screen. We have licensed those from other companies. We may ship other parts of the platform as open-source, and [the rasterizer] will ship as a binary. Once Java is open-sourced, the ideal situation is the community can help us create a replacement technology for it by developing it in open-source.

We are trying to determine what the right governance model is and what the right licensing should be. We need to improve the infrastructure [for the community], provide a way for tracking bugs and feature requirements and to do source-code management. It is not just creating a site where you can download the source. It will be a site where people can check in changes, for instance.

Do you envision this work requiring changes to the Java Community Process?

We are not entirely sure. There could be changes to it. We want external parties and committers to take part in the process. I don't know what those changes will be yet. The principles upon which Java was created ... still have to be there. Ideally, open-sourcing will not change the JCP.

Have you decided the order for releasing other parts of the code?

No. It is basically driven by requirements by the community and how rapidly we can get it ready for open-source. It comes down to resources -- time and legal [issues] -- more than anything else.

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