Daily Archives: November 6, 2007

The Sun / Red Hat Java announcement: 2002 or 2007?

A few hours back I read Steve O’Grady’s latest daily links, and found therein a link to Mark J. Wielaard’s post Friends.

Mark’s post is about Red Hat and Sun Collaborate to Advance Open Source Java Technology, a joint press-release by Sun and Red Hat dated November 5, 2007.

When I first read Mark’s post I thought it was a spoof, as the quotes he gave in his post made me come close to laughing out loud.

Here are some excerpts (emphasis added), with my comments in italics.

Red Hat (NYSE: RHT), the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, today announced an agreement with Sun Microsystems to advance open source JavaTM software. Red Hat has signed Sun’s broad contributor agreement that covers participation in all Sun-led open source projects by all Red Hat engineers.

Note the “Sun-led open source projects.” Aren’t projects supposed to be led by a core team of developers, not a company? Also, why do companies such as RHT and Sun often say they are the “best” or the “leading” when it comes to open-source? This should be decided by the beholder, not the proclaimer.

In addition, Red Hat has signed Sun’s OpenJDK Community TCK License Agreement. This agreement gives the company access to the test suite that determines whether an implementation of the Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE) platform that is derived from the OpenJDK project complies with the Java SE 6 specification.

Sigh. Sun is still refusing to open up the test kit, an issue I discussed almost a year ago in my “What If?” series.

As a contributor, Red Hat will have full access to the OpenJDK code base as well as the Java SE 6 TCK to eventually deliver a JRE for Red Hat Enterprise Linux that would significantly enhance Java software applications.

Why do you have to be a contributor to get access to the code base? Shouldn’t anyone be able to access the code base of an open project?

“Red Hat fully supports Sun’s courageous decision to open source Java technology…”

Courageous?

Earlier this month, Red Hat Middleware LLC division was re-elected by program members of the Java Community Process (JCPSM) to the Executive Committee (EC) for the Standard/Enterprise Edition (SE/EE).

Re-elected? Not by a community, but by a Sun-controlled entity. Sigh.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

If this announcement had been made in 1999, or 2000, or 2001, or even 2002, then it might have been real news.

Learning of it in 2007, especially given the language used, makes it a joke, at least to this observer.

December 1999: Three Predictions

Sometime in December, 1999 — as my days working on Jikes were coming to an end — I wrote a short memo with three predictions about how open-source would develop over the next ten years.

It’s now almost eight years later. Here are the predictions and my reasoning.

1. Red Hat will invest in creating the first true open-source Java, and so become the dominant supplier of Java in the free and open-software communities, giving it a major strategic advantage.

Those of us who were around back in the day when lots of folks cared about Java recall that in late 1999 Sun made lots of noises about standardizing Java via ECMA. I wasn’t directly involved in this, but I did know a few folks who were.

This effort fell apart in early December, when it became clear Sun was not going to give up control, a step that would be needed to make Java a real open standard.

I then felt that it was unlikely Sun would “get it” when it came to open-source, for at least a period of many years.

I predicted this would leave an opportunity for someone else to start a meaningful open-source effort, and as Red Hat then had substantial resources left from its IPO, I predicted they would do it.

2. I predicted that over the next decade open source would become more important outside the United States than within it.

Look at the per capita GDP numbers; for example, Wikipedia’s List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita. The first four countries are Luxembourg, Ireland, Norway, and the United State. Luxembourg is a fluke since it is a small country with liberal tax laws that have drawn many financial institutions. The next three each have PPP of just over 40,000.

As I recall it, that number was around 30,000 back then, and the cost of buying one copy each of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office came to a few days worth, certainly less than a week’s.

It you look at the end of the list you will see that the Windows cost is not just a few days of work but can run to weeks or months.

This is just a roundabout way of restating the obvious, that what seems an acceptable cost in the United States is way beyond the means of people in the developing world.

I felt that entrepreneurs who wanted to build software companies in underdeveloped countries had only two choices. First, they could pirate Microsoft software, but that would fail for two reasons: it was unethical, and even if that didn’t stop them, then Redmond would stop them as soon as the company showed up on their radar.

That left open-source as the most promising opportunity. I also felt that the most successful companies would not be those that just replicated software written elsewhere to their own country but those that created new software uniquely built to reflect some aspects of the country’s culture. Hence there would be a need for developers who knew that culture, and the easiest way to build a team would be to get some smart programmers and teach them about open-source, so they could then shape it to their needs.

3. I predicted that, on a global basis, IBM would do better than Red Hat.

IBM had been operating as a global company for decades, and only had to learn how to do open source.

Red Hat had been in existence for only a few years. Red Hat had no experience operating as a global company, and so faced a much more difficult challenge.

I would score myself as follows:

1. Wrong. Red Hat decided to spend those IPO dollars on Cygnus. (How many people even know that Red Hat did so, or what Cygnus did before Red Hat bought it?)

2. Right, though we’ll have a better sense in a year or two.

3. Right.

You can make your own call.

SDP: Slogan Driven Projects

While working in the IBM Research Yorktown cafeteria this morning, I heard the two gentlemen at a nearby table say it was time to prepare a presentation and add the usual stuff to help convince management it was a worthy task.

I interrupted to compliment on their work. As I had heard them exchange a number of TLA’s while speaking IBMese, I mentioned my fondness for TLA’s.

One of them then mentioned a new one, one I had never heard before:

SDP : Slogan Driven Project

I liked it to much I decided to BAI (Blog About it).

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