Red Hat, Sun Microsystems to collaborate on Java development

Red Hat has announced an agreement with Sun Microsystems that will open the door to collaborative open source Java application development and optimized Java performance on Linux.

Red Hat Inc. announced today that it has signed an agreement with Sun Microsystems Inc. to advance the development of open source Java software. Part of the agreement will see Red Hat engineers participating in Sun-led open source projects, executives said.

For more on Sun and Red Hat:
Sun exec explains open source Java

Additionally, Red Hat has signed Sun's OpenJDK Community TCK (Technology Compatibility Kit) license agreement. The agreement gives Red Hat access to the test suite that determines whether an implementation of the Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE) platform complies with the Java SE 6 specification.

A break from the past
Red Hat executives said this is the first time a major software vendor has licensed the Java SE TCK in support of Java SE compatibility, which was made available to developers with an open source Java project earlier this year. In August, Sun granted access to Java TCK to any developer with an open source Java project that was based substantially on Java software and was also governed by the General Public License (GPL).

In many ways, this was an inevitable deal.
Raven Zachary,
senior analystthe 451 Group

As an extended part of its agreement with Sun, Red Hat will share its own developer contributions as part of the OpenJDK community.

Ultimately, these agreements will pave the way for Red Hat to create an open source Java Development Kit (JDK) for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), including the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), said Raven Zachary, a senior analyst at the New York-based 451 Group.

"In many ways, this was an inevitable deal. For Red Hat, a large number of its customers are active Java customers already, and it makes sense to work more closely with Sun," he said.

Zachary said the collaboration also marks a departure for Red Hat, which until today was known for insular development on code and applications that worked mostly with its own initiatives. "Back before Open [Source] Java, Red Hat was doing its own work with BEA [Systems] on JRockit for optimization on Linux, but with open Java it's become much easier for Red Hat to run that technology in RHEL. They mean to make Linux the premier Java deployment platform, which [will be tough], because Solaris has a leg up on it right now," he said.

In 2006, Sun responded to calls from the general developer community for an open source Java by releasing portions of the object-oriented high-level programming language under an open source license, including the code for the JavaC compiler and the Hotspot virtual machine -- two technology elements necessary to run programs written in the Java programming language. On May 8, 2007, Sun finished the process by making Java's entire core code open source.

From a user's perspective, optimization and fine-tuning for Java performance on Linux are the big takeaways from this collaboration, Zachary said. "Red Hat will be more aggressive in its promotion of its own interests in Java technology; you'll start to see a lot more optimization on x86 hardware and in the Linux kernel," he said.

Another benefit of the agreement is tighter alignment with the IcedTea project, which brings together Red Hat's community distribution, Fedora and JBoss.org technologies in a Linux environment. IcedTea provides a free software alternative for the few remaining proprietary sections in the OpenJDK project. Simon Phipps, Sun's chief open source officer, applauded the "fantastic" collaboration news on his blog Monday, SunMink and said it was an interesting counterpoint to the approach other open source projects -- like the GNU Compiler for the Java Programming Language, for example -- have taken thus far.

"I hope we'll see IcedTea become an OpenJDK project as a result of this -- the Classpath folks have been doing an awesome job," he said. Classpath is a project aiming to create a free software implementation of the standard class library for the Java programming language.

Email Jack Loftus with your comments and suggestions. You can also check out our blog, the Enterprise Linux Log, for more information on Linux and open source software

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