Open Sesame, Java
At the 2006 JavaOne conference, newly-minted CEO Jonathan Schwartz took to the stage to inform the attendees that Sun intended to release its Java programming language as open source, after more than a decade of yowling from the open source community. It went even further in November of that year by announcing it would release the source code under the very liberal GPL (define) license.
Sun continued with these efforts in 2007, meting the promised milestone of releasing a buildable version of the Java Development Kit in May, just prior to JavaOne. Some code still has to be replaced because the developer that licensed it to Sun refused to allow that code to be open sourced.
To further its open source efforts, Sun hired someone who knew a thing or two about that world, Ian Murdock, developer of the Debian Linux distribution. He was brought on board in March to help advance OpenSolaris, Sun's open source operating system.
The project will be known as Project Indiana. It will offer automatic updating to the OpenSolaris operating system via the Internet, using a similar method to Yum and App-Get on Linux, or Windows Update for Windows. OpenSolaris will be a regularly updated operating system seeing many changes as Sun experiments, and the ideas that work will eventually be rolled into the official release of Solaris.
The result of all of this openness is Java is finally finding favor in the open source world after a chilly relationship as recently as 2005. Long criticized by the open source community, there are now 23,000 projects on Source Forge and Java projects make up 25 percent of SourceForge projects, although there had been a healthy number of Java-based projects prior to Sun's embrace of open source.
Sun needs the open source community behind it, because 12 years after its introduction, Java is still not living up to its promise. Remember 'write once, run anywhere?' That mantra hasn't been heard from in a while. The company is bringing back that notion, if not that slogan, by centering things around the Java SE platform and rewriting large chunks of the code to eliminate all the incompatibilities.
Java is also facing more competition than ever before. In the dynamic language space, Python, Ruby and PHP are big and growing players. Microsoft continues to hang in there with the .NET Framework. Now Adobe threatens Java's hegemony in the Internet space with AIR, nee Apollo. Sun's response has been JavaFX, which will bring Web 2.0-like experiences to the client in an off-line situation.
JavaFX is expected to ship next year, along with a significant upgrade to the Java runtime to address a major complaint; performance. Next year will definitely be an important year for Sun and the Java community. Sun is banking heavily on Java; it even changed its stock ticker from SUNW to JAVA to reflect this.
The real test will be whether this open source embrace will translate to the bottom line. CEO Jonathan Schwartz has mended a lot of fences and done things considered impossible under long time CEO Scott McNealy, but Sun continues to pull off slim profits with minimal growth, and these open source efforts need to show up in the bottom line sooner rather than later.
Five years ago, the electric bill was the last thing on any IT manager's mind. Today, power constraints are so bad that in lower Manhattan, many data centers can't add any more equipment because there is no more power to be had. Gartner estimates that for every dollar spent on IT hardware, it costs fifty cents to power and cool it, and that price will rise to 70 cents in the coming years.
Intel and AMD led the way, but pretty much every hardware vendor was in lock step. IBM had its Big Green project, with more than $1 billion allocated for developing energy efficient technologies. HP and Dell have their own "green" initiatives and every company in the power and cooling business is looking at ways to cut the bills.
Sun took a unique approach with green tech. Besides routinely touting the energy efficiency in its UltraSparc chips, Sun came up with the mobile data center, called the Black Box. Former CEO Scott McNeal reasoned it's easier to move data than electricity, so the solution was to put the mobile data center where power was cheap and move the data over the Internet.
With every major hardware vendor promoting the idea of consolidation, the big players led by example. Eating your own dog food, as they say at Microsoft. IBM has consolidated 155 datacenters worldwide down to seven; Intel plans to consolidated 133 down to eight; HP began a project in 2006 to reduce its 85 datacenters to six; Sun had far fewer datacenters, but by deploying advanced hardware in its existing centers it was able to increase density and performance and still reduce the number of physical machines.
The companies are now taking these lessons to customers. One example: IBM helped database developer Sybase consolidate its datacenters so that it will stay in the same power envelope until 2017 and reduced its hardware inventory by 45 percent.
This article was first published on InternetNews.com.