They Only Wanted Java?

I enjoy reading quotes by former Sun executives. I think I've seen these two quotes before, but they seem to pop up from time to time. And with Java opening, I bet we see a lot of extracurricular commentary this year. Should be great fun. Check these out ...

Then there's the debate over Java, the language used throughout the Web and corporate programming. "Java is the only thing people ever wanted them to open-source," says Peter Yared, a former Sun executive who's now heading up an open-source startup ActiveGrid. It's a question that several ex-Sun executives have scratched their heads over. Says former Sun executive and BEA Systems (BEAS) founder Bill Coleman, who now heads software startup Cassatt: "I personally think they should have done it years ago."

If that Yared quote up there accurately represents his real statement, Yared is totally wrong. More than a year before we opened Solaris, our team openly engaged hundreds of developers at customers, universities, and a variety of conferences around the world. People were pretty jazzed about a future with OpenSolaris. They offered valuable suggestions and expressed overwhelming support. Just so you know, Peter.

wasnt that comment made about java, why bring opensolaris into this? two different things.

Posted by KG on July 07, 2006 at 02:14 PM JST #

Jim: I think you're missing the timescale here. Peter was presumably talking about his experiences when he worked at Sun. My own experience is that between, say, 1998 and 2002, Java was indeed the only Sun technology that "people" (the broad technical community) wanted Sun to open-source. Interest in an open source Solaris only emerged when Sun started to talk about it. (And it's probably true that interest in open-source Java began to decline as some people gave up on the complexities of J2EE and started to look elsewhere.)

I still think that if you conducted a broad-based survey and asked people to rate the importance of open-sourcing Solaris and Java, 90% would say that an open Java was more important than Solaris.

I'm not knocking OpenSolaris - it's been a very successful program, well executed, imaginative - but please don't let that blind you to the bigger picture.

Posted by Geoff Arnold on July 07, 2006 at 02:58 PM JST #

I prefer Open Solaris to Open Source Java. There are many OSS alternatives -> jikes/kaffe/cacaojvm and there is always C++/ObjC/Python. Actually I do not need OSS Java. I need more closed source drivers of Solaris to be opened and Via C3/C7 platforms to be supported. SUN should start shipping cheap desktops and laptops based on Via C7. However SUN should also support Java Bluetooth on Solaris, not on Windows. Do I ask too much? SUN did much more than others do. Where is Open Source HPUX,AIX or IRIX?

Posted by Vasileios Anagnostopoulos on July 07, 2006 at 03:18 PM JST #

Java could rot as far as I'm concerned; open sourcing, or even better, giving Solaris away GRATIS is A LOT BIGGER DEAL than Java will ever be. Who cares about open sourcing Java? Just a bunch of misinformed slashdot fanboy geeks that have nothing better to do. Meanwhile professional developers continue developing on Java and don't have a care in the world about whether Java will ever be open sourced. Forget about open sourcing Java. Solaris is the name of the game.

Posted by ux-admin on July 07, 2006 at 06:29 PM JST #

Hi, KG ... yes the comment was about Java and didn't mention OpenSolaris. I brought OpenSolaris into it just to demonstrate that there are other open source communities around here and that Java is not the only thing in town at Sun, that's all. Yared has commented about Sun's open source strategy in the past and he's demonstrated that he has little understanding of what we are doing here. Plus, he seems hostile for some reason. So, I just wanted to educate him a little, that's all. But you are correct. I'm the one who brought OpenSolaris into the mix.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on July 07, 2006 at 06:35 PM JST #

Hello, Geoff. Well, if there was a timeframe noted I missed it. His quote could very well have been clipped, but I think it reads pretty clearly for as far as it goes. Regardless, I still don't agree with him. He's talking about Java to the \*exclusion\* of everything else we are doing, and he's wrong. In fact, everything I've experienced on this project tells me he's wrong. His quote is too sweeping and general to be supportable. Also, his recent statements are clearly hostile to Sun, and he is clearly not well informed about Sun's open source developer communities and Sun's open source business strategies. I understand your point about the "broad technical community" but it's time to question that assertion or at least quantify it better. I find that many times the noise in the media and the activity at many popular conferences do not necessarily reflect reality. Oh, and I certainly know you are not knocking OpenSolaris, but I do question the 90% figure and I do question the so-called bigger picture as well. The success of OpenSolaris (albeit just one year) should demonstrate that some old assumptions can now be questioned. That's really all I'm doing here. I don't necessarily have the answers to these issues, but I don't believe anyone at present does either. Certainly not Yared. He's not credible.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on July 07, 2006 at 08:23 PM JST #

Hey, Vasileios. No, I don't think you are asking for too much. :) And thanks for your support. But it may not all come from Sun in the future, and that's the important point here. That's why we created OpenSolaris. We wanted others to be able to contribute to the system in areas where we weren't putting resources (for whatever reason) or haven't even thought of yet. This process has already begun, but it's still very early.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on July 07, 2006 at 08:31 PM JST #

Well ux-admin I'm happy you are supportive of OpenSolaris, but I have to disagree with your comments regarding Java. A great many Java developers want that code opened up for exactly the same reasons that Solaris developers wanted the Solaris code opened up. Yared is correct in that one respect, but I was only trying to insert Solaris in there as well because I didn't like the implication of excluding OpenSolaris (or other open source projects in which Sun participates).

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on July 07, 2006 at 08:50 PM JST #

Jim: I guess I was reacting to your sweeping characterization of Yared as "totally wrong". I didn't read the original piece [I must admit that I've been distracted by Alec's motorcycle accident], so I was basing my comments on the excerpt that you quoted. And between 1997 and 2002, in the circles (customers, partners, standards bodies) that I moved in, the only Sun technology that they wanted us to open-source was Java.

Yes, there were mixed motives involved - Microsoft had poisoned the ECMA well, so we were damned if we did and damned if we didn't; on the other hand, some people just wanted a way to cope with the freaking backward compatibility issues that plagued the early JDK releases. I'm pretty sure that the only person talking about open sourcing Solaris back then was Rob Gingell, and that was because he believed we should shift our strategic ABI contract from Solaris/POSIX to Java. And Linux hadn't yet had a chance to disappoint early adopters and open the door for OpenSolaris. (That came in 2002.) But that's another story....

Posted by Geoff Arnold on July 07, 2006 at 10:42 PM JST #

Hey, Geoff. Wow. How horrible. I'm so sorry to hear that. Thoughts and prayers for Alec.

I remember Rob talking about opening Solaris while we were at JavaOne 2002 in San Francisco. I was doing his PR at the time, and he generated quite a bit of attention in the press for his desire to open Solaris. He was certainly the most senior person talking about it publically, but there were some key Solaris engineers researching plans to open Solaris during that time and before that as well. Rob wasn't the only one (as I learned much later, of course). I totally agree with the general notion that the public perception has been on Java and opening Java for years. Part of that, I think, was Sun's error in focusing on Java developers to the exclusion of Solaris developers. I never understood why Sun did that. There was never any reason why Sun couldn't have had thriving Java \*and\* Solaris developer programs running side-by-side. History is interesting, but that's all changed now -- and for the better. I think Sun's developer programs are much healthier now because they are more diverse and offer more options. But I'm still a bit new to all this. You obviously have more experience and earlier experience. I trust your assessment more than Yared's. And yes, I do think he's "totally wrong" :) but perhaps it wasn't a good way to characterize it.

Again, although this is a fascinating, there are more important issues at hand. My best for Alec.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on July 07, 2006 at 11:58 PM JST #

good post!

Posted by Juan george on July 09, 2006 at 07:55 AM JST #

I prefer Open Solaris to Open Source Java.

Posted by Joshua on July 09, 2006 at 01:34 PM JST #

I guess I was reacting to your sweeping characterization of Yared as "totally wrong".

Posted by Andrew on July 10, 2006 at 04:51 PM JST #

No, I don't think you are asking for too much. :)

Posted by Hunter on July 11, 2006 at 05:07 PM JST #

Great post!!

Posted by Jose on July 16, 2006 at 03:58 PM JST #

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