Sun Readies Open Code

UPDATED: The company will submit a 'significant project' to the open source community, but it doesn't involve Java or Solaris.

UPDATED: Sun Microsystems is preparing to submit a "significant project" to the open source community, has learned.

A source close to the initiative said the company should be making an announcement in the next 10 days. Surprisingly, the submission will not be Sun's two hotly contested properties -- its Java programming language or Solaris operating system.

The source said the software would also be licensed under the General Public License (GPL) and not Sun's newly submitted Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL).

Last month, Sun executives hinted the company would continue its market-disrupting ways and release code from some of its enterprise software products to the open source community such as its Java Enterprise System (JES) and Java Desktop System (JDS), which is based mostly on code from In 2004, Sun submitted Java-enabled projects like Project Looking Glass and Java 3D.

Sun said it will also begin submitting parts of Solaris this month. The company will release the Unix-based server OS under the CDDL and not a variant of the GPL because "it's the only thing being applied to the CDDL right now," the source said.

If the code comes from JES, it would most certainly be a fly in the ointment for IBM , BEA , and JBoss, whose middleware empires depend on the Java Community's good graces.

"I think it makes sense, particularly from the perspective of developer and ISV interest," Dana Gardner, senior analyst The Yankee Group, said. "The notion of composite apps, of business process-driven apps and SOA almost beg for a flexible middleware approach so that applications become a set of components that leverage a set of reusable middleware services, perhaps even middleware that is specifically packaged for certain kinds of apps, verticals, or other categories (such as hardened for military/defense)."

Gardner said Sun's other motivation would be to pre-empt Red Hat from gaining a middleware open source play and/or a commercial middleware play now that the company bought the old Netscape server components last fall from AOL.

Michael Dortch, a principal business analyst with IT consultancy Robert Frances Group, said opening either or both JES and JDS would make a lot of sense since Sun's already charging aggressively low prices for them anyway.

"Is Sun evolving itself into a company willing to develop or foster development of pretty cool software it is then willing to all but give away to sell hardware and services? Dortch asked. "It's a business model that leverages without being dependent upon the incumbent open source ecosystem/marketplace, and leverages without being overly saddled by Sun's historic baggage."

Other analysts say Sun could also open source its enterprise blogging application, named Roller. While the platform began its life as an open source project, before Sun hired its founder David Johnson, the company has not given the software the full on corporate treatment since he joined.

"For Sun, blogs represent a nice disruptive opportunity -- no Notes or Domino or CMS installed bases to worry about," James Governor, with IT market analyst firm Red Monk said.

Sun is scheduled to submit its Q2 financial earnings report next Thursday.

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