Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sun Dispute Leads Apache Software Foundation To Vote 'No' on Java EE 6 Spec

The Java EE 6 spec, released today, was approved by a vote the JCP Executive Committee (see related story here), but it wasn't unanimous. The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) cast the only nay vote (there were two abstentions).

Geir Magnusson, Jr., director of the ASF and that group's representative to the JCP, explained the Foundation's position to this site via e-mail: "The vote hinged on the ASF's policy that any member of the JCP who does not abide by their obligations under the rules and agreements of the JCP should not be able to participate in, let alone lead, a JSR… The ASF contends that Sun Microsystems is in breach of their contractual obligations under the JSPA [the contract under which an entity becomes a member of the JCP], as well as acting in a way contrary to the community expectations of a spec lead, as well as public promises made to the Java community at large by its corporate officers. Thus the вЂno' vote for the Sun-led JSRs at the last ballot," he wrote.
The ASF has claimed that Sun is refusing to provide the Foundation with a license for a Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK), the official test suite that can only be provided by the spec lead, and which the ASF needs to complete work on its Harmony implementation of Java Standard Edition (Java SE) under the Apache License. Magnusson asserts that Sun wants to protect the licensing revenue it receives for its own implementation of the Java SE spec, and that's why it won't issue the license.

If that truly is Sun's aim, it would be contrary to the objective of the JCP, which is charged with providing specifications that can have multiple independent implementations.

"To be clear," Magnusson added, "there have been proposals from Sun, but each time the license for the TCK came with restrictions that would prevent the ASF from distributing the final tested code… For an open source organization that exists to distribute software under open source licenses, this is clearly unacceptable. We feel that the JSPA [the contract under which an entity becomes a member of the JCP] is very clear on what terms a spec lead can, and more importantly cannot place in a TCK license, and thus we feel Sun is in breach of the [contract]… and thus shouldn't be able to lead or participate in JSRs."

Magnusson, who is the creator of the Harmony project, pointed out that the ASF has implemented JSRs before. The Foundation implemented the Java EE spec in the Apache Geronimo app server, the servlet and JSP spec in the Apache Tomcat servlet container, the JMS spec in the Apache ActiveMQ message broker, and the JSF specification in Apache MyFaces, among others.

Rod Johnson, founder of VMware subsidiary SpringSource and member of the JCP Executive Committee, said he is disappointed that Sun has not been able to resolve this dispute with ASF. "This issue raises legitimate concerns about the credibility of the JCP as a whole," he said. "I mean, the JCP is either it's open or it's not. I have a lot of sympathy for the Foundation on this issue."

Sun is unable to comment on the ASF's charges, the company said, because it can't make forward-looking statements in the midst of being acquired by Oracle Corp. for $7.4 billion. That deal, still in the works, has been stalled by the European Union over concerns about Oracle's ownership of the open source MySQL database, which Sun acquired last year.

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