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A year later: has Oracle ruined or saved Sun?

Paul Krill | Feb. 10, 2011
The company irks open source advocates but is steadfast in upgrading Sun-derived technologies

Java: JSEE advances but disputes reign on several fronts Oracle's stewardship of Java, perhaps the most critical technology gained in the Sun acquisition, has been a mixed bag. The company in November submitted specifications for the Java Standard Editions 7 and 8, with accommodations for multicore processors and modularity, that the Java Community Process (JCP) approved in December. In September, Oracle also detailed plans to bolster the JavaFX rich Internet application platform. JavaFX 2.0 is due later this year, supporting hardware-accelerated graphics and updated UI controls.

Oracle, however, has had to deal with high-profile conflict. For example, after initially siding with Apache against Sun's proposed field-of-use restrictions for the Apache Harmony version of Java, Oracle switched sides after it bought Sun and supported the restrictions that Apache disliked. The restrictions, according to Apache, would prohibit Harmony's use on mobile platforms. The dispute, which goes back half a decade, finally led to Apache quitting the JCP Java SE/EE executive committee in December, with Apache protesting Oracle's control over Java.

More conflict in the Java realm has been over Oracle's highly publicized lawsuit against Google, which alleges that the Android mobile OS violates Java patents. The lawsuit prompted Google to pull out of the first Oracle-run JavaOne conference in September.

Even more conflict: Oracle has been promoting OpenJDK as the principal reference implementation of open source Java, getting backing from IBM in October. (IBM (IBM) previously had backed Apache's position.) This month, Oracle issued draft bylaws for OpenJDK ostensibly to encourage participants to act in an "open, transparent, and meritocratic manner." But critics note that Oracle appoints a chair and IBM a vice chair under the rules. "It was interesting to see IBM get a permanent position on the governing board as vice chair," said a cynical Magnusson, the Apache treasurer.

Solaris: Today's Oracle invests in the OS it used to ignore Oracle's jurisdiction over Solaris is a bit ironic since Oracle certainly did not help the platform when Sun began promoting commodity Linux in the days Sun was still independent. Nonetheless, Oracle has been moving forward with Solaris. In November, Oracle shipped Solaris 11 Express, which is geared to developers and serves as a preview of Solaris 11, due in 2011. Version 11 is set to increase application throughput, improve performance, and boost reliability and security.

Another Oracle move, however, could prompt Solaris users to look at Linux. The company last year changed the free usage provision of Solaris 10, limiting it to 90 days. Sun had been offering the operating system free of charge in hopes of selling support subscriptions. Oracle also put a dent in the OpenSolaris open source version of Solaris, with leaked plans revealing intentions to stop developing it. In August, the OpenSolaris Governing Board voted to dissolve itself.


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