Oracle Sues Google Over Java on Android

Oracle – now having purchased Sun – has sued Google over their custom Java virtual machine for the Android mobile platform. In doing so, Oracle has sent reverberations throughout the open source and Java communities.

Google took the Java APIs and enhanced and changed them – then created a virtual machine (called Dalvik) which runs a custom format executable. This was part of the Android software when it was introduced in November 2007, and there were many complaints about Google’s treatment of Java – including complaints from Sun itself. Google’s response at the time to Sun’s complaints was:

Google and the other members of the Open Handset Alliance are working to help solve fragmentation and supporting the developer community by creating Android, a mobile platform that responds to the needs of the developers, has the backing of industry leaders, and will be available as open source under a nonrestrictive license.

To break that statement down, Google was saying:

  • The Open Handset Alliance (not the Java Community Process or JCP) should be the Java stewards for mobile Java.
  • Android (and Android Java) responds to the needs of the developers.
  • Android is backed by industry.
  • Android is available as open source.
  • Android is available under a nonrestrictive license.
  • Java 2 Mobile Edition (J2ME) has none of these capabilities.

Don’t miss the fact that Google created the Open Handset Alliance at the same time, and serves mainly as a source for Android – though it has in recent days been seen as useless by some.

Sun (now Oracle) has had a mobile version of Java (known as J2ME) since before Android existed – but Google bypassed it (and the Java Community Process or JCP) when it created its own JVM. Dalvik executables, in fact, are created from Java binaries, thus involving Java itself in the process of creation and development.

It appears that Google’s Android Java implementation was a direct attack on the JCP and on J2ME. To use J2ME, Google would have had to license it, as it was not available under a license that would have allowed commercial closed-source development: it was under the GPL, but without the classpath exemption that the J2SE had. Because of this lack of the classpath exemption, any development on the standard J2ME platform would have to be released as source code under the GPL.

This action by Oracle fits perfectly into its public persona: consider that Sun’s Chief Open-Source Officer, Simon Phipps, was not even offered a position at Oracle at all. He is or was on the advisory boards for OpenSolaris, OpenJDK, and OpenSparc. Other distinguished Sun engineers have left, including Kohsuke Kawaguchi (chief developer of Hudson), Charles Nutter and Thomas Enobo (both lead developers of JRuby), Tim Bray (Director of Web Technologies – which includes Java and JRuby), and James Gosling (creator of Java). It is notable that all of these people except Simon Phipps are luminaries in the Java realm at Sun. It is as if the Java engineers left wholesale once Oracle was about to take over.

Coverage of the lawsuit has been extensive. Stephen Shankland over at CNet has a story about why Oracle may have chosen to sue. Stephen O’Grady over at RedMonk may have one of the best in-depth analyses of this conflict out there. Groklaw has committed to following the lawsuit through the courts, and has an excellent introductory piece on the lawsuit. Steven Vaughn-Nichols suggests that this lawsuit is only the beginning, and that JBoss, Apache Jakarta, and the JCP better watch out (though I disagree).

From when Google introduced Android and its associated virtual machine, Dalvik, Stefano Mazzochi had one of the most complete explanations of what Google was doing and its implications.

Oracle Continues to Withdraw Sun Support Access

A couple of days ago, Techbert noted that Sun firmware downloads were no longer available from Oracle. This is just one more way that Oracle has been withdrawing from Sun’s traditional open stance.

Oracle already has stated it would not be putting all new technologies into OpenSolaris, and that it would provide support for all Sun servers in the (customer’s) data center or none at all.

The entire character of Sun’s offerings has changed, and for the customer, not for the better.

Future of OpenSolaris Under Oracle

Recently there was a big flap over the future of OpenSolaris. Oracle posted the support lifecycle for Solaris and other technologies, and future support for OpenSolaris was missing.

Indeed, customers who talked to their Oracle sales representatives about paid support for OpenSolaris in the enterprise were told that it is currently unavailable.

This combination led some to theorize that OpenSolaris would cease to exist; this is not at all the case, according to Oracle. eWeek went to the source to get a coherent and complete explanation.

Datamation looked at Oracle’s plans for OpenSolaris and found that OpenSolaris will remain viable and active. However, one sad note: Oracle may not open source technologies currently being developed by Sun.

Intel Itanium Tukwila CPU Out Soon?

ComputerWorld reports that Intel has started shipping the Itanium Tukwila processor. The Itanium processor drives the HP Integrity line of servers, as well as the HP NonStop servers.

In the near future (2nd or 3rd quarter?) HP is expected to announce Integrity servers based on the Tukwila processor. These new servers are predicted to be blade servers, and it is also suggested that Superdome will receive a complete overhaul – which is uncomfortably close to suggesting a “forklift upgrade” (i.e., pull out the entire server and replace) for Superdome. The Superdome system infrastructure is 10 years old, so it may be time – but an expensive upgrade like that is never welcome.

At the International Solid-State Circuits Conference next week, both Sun (UltraSPARC “Rainbow Falls”) and IBM (Power 7) are expected to announce new chips. Some coverage of both these chips went on at the HotChips Conference in August; ExtremeTech covered both chips well in its conference preview. In September, the Register managed to snap up a copy of the Sun SPARC roadmap; it shows the Rainbow Falls chip being introduced in 2010. As for Tukwila, Intel is rumored to be making the formal announcement of Tukwila at the ISSC.

We shall see…

Sun and Oracle Deal Final (at last!)

The huge cloud that has been hanging over the Sun-Oracle deal has finally been swept away and the deal consumated with blessings from regulators.

Oracle discussed their plans for Sun on 27 January, stating that they would cut Sun’s server line by 50% while increasing commitment to Sparc processors. They also restated a commitment to Java and called Java “the crown jewel” from Sun.

The press has been mum on Sun’s other products, including StarOffice, Solaris, the Modular Data Center, and VirtualBox for just a few. Oracle’s commitment has been stated towards these products in the past; whether that commitment will translate into action is yet to be seen.

Also not mentioned is Sun’s participation in open source projects such as NetBeans, OpenSPARC, and OpenSolaris. However, all three of these projects now show Oracle branding. This at least suggests that Oracle is aware of these projects (if it wasn’t just a case of switching out an Oracle logo instead of a Sun logo).

Whither Sun Microsystems?

The recent fourth quarter reports from server manufacturers was dim, and Sun Microsystems was by far the worst (with a 35% loss compared to the same period last year). On top of this, Sun just announced in October (within their 8K filing for the SEC) intentions to lay off 3000 employees in the next 12 months. Infoworld also had a nice piece on this; according to Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, the company is losing $100 million each month the European Union regulators put off accepting the merger.

With the Oracle acquisition in progress, there are a lot of questions about the future viability of Sun Microsystems, and of some of its products.

I don’t think people realize just how important the Sun group of products are, and what an impact it would have if most – or even some – of the products were cancelled. Consider this list of Sun products:

Most of the most popular products were mentioned by Oracle in their Sun Acquisition FAQ (PDF), stating that they will increase money spent on each over what Sun spent. These products include: Java, Solaris, SPARC, StarOffice, NetBeans, virtualization products, Glassfish, and MySQL. Other products were not mentioned – such as Lustre, the Modular Data Center, and others.

The list above also does not list the technologies that were spearheaded by Sun – and some still are: ZFS, NFS, NIS (and NIS+), dtrace, containers, and smc.

It would be unfortunate – and materially significant – if Sun were to go under or if any of the majority of their products were to be cancelled. One can only hope this does not happen…

ZFS and Apple’s new MacOS X (Snow Leopard)

Sun’s ZFS is, by all accounts, the most revolutionary file system to come along in years. The Wikipedia entry on ZFS has some details, and Sun has a ZFS Learning Center where you can learn how to use it.

Of course, ZFS is in OpenSolaris, but it is also being introduced into FreeBSD as well.

The Solaris Internals site has a beautiful ZFS Best Practices Guide.

What does all of this have to do with Apple’s MacOS X (Snow Leopard)?

Just this: early in the development of MacOS X 10.6, Apple announced that they would use ZFS in the new MacOS X Snow Leopard. The ability to read ZFS volumes had been put into MacOS X Leopard Server. However, ZFS is missing from MacOS X Snow Leopard and Snow Leopard Server entirely. Robin Harris over at ZDNet has an excellent article that explains it all. He then went on to expand on his ZDNet article with more details.

The one detail in particular I wanted to note is the lawsuit between NetApp and Sun over ZFS and related patents. Groklaw has been following the lawsuit, but the last update from Groklaw is October 2008; Sun has more details on their lawsuit page. Way back in 2007 when the patent lawsuit erupted, CompuerWorld had an article suggesting that Apple might be forced into the lawsuit since it had been courting ZFS – or could be sued next if NetApp won. Neither Apple nor NetApp would comment.

It would also be worth noting that when IBM was in talks to buy Sun in March 2009, there were articles about how the ZFS lawsuit would affect such talks – especially given that IBM and NetApp had a strong partnership already (IBM remarkets NetApp hardware for instance). AMLawDaily had a nice article about it, as did CNET. It wasn’t much more than a month later – in April 2009 – that Sun announced it was being bought by Oracle.

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CommunityOne West: June 1-3 2009

Sun is holding its CommunityOne West conference at the Moscone Center June 1-3 in San Francisco, California.

Sounds like there will be a wide range of Solaris and Open Source topics, including virtualization, system management, cloud development, mobile development, web development, and much more.

The OpenSolaris community will be there in force, so don’t miss it!

This is one of the first conferences since Oracle announced their acquisition of Sun; it would be interesting to be plugged into the rumour mill on the floor.

Did anyone go to CommunityOne East in New York City?

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IBM to Buy Sun?

This is big news, apparently broken by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday (18 March). Vivian Yeo had an short article on it in ZDNet, and Stephen Shankland of CNET had an extensive piece on it – suggesting that the sale would have some severe stumbling blocks, including a clash of cultures between Sun and IBM.

The New York Times discussed the possibility at length on 19 March. The piece in the NYT posits that such a merger would invite antitrust scrutiny from the U.S. government – which I believe it would.

According to the NYT, Sun went looking for a buyer and was turned down by Hewlett-Packard among others.

The possibility of a sale of Sun Microsystems is by no means new; in 1996 there was raised (by the Wall Street Journal on 23 January) the possibility of an Apple-Sun merger, which was finally put to rest by a succinct press release from Apple (then under Gil Amelio): Apple is “not currently in merger discussions with any party.” (This was also covered in the February 1996 edition of SunWorld).

In 2006, there was some discussion in the 4 June 2006 San Francisco Chronicle about the possibility that Sun was preparing itself for sale, having just jettisoned its poison pill and laying off 5,000 workers.

In August of that year, the possibility of a Sun-Apple merger was brought up again with the ascent of Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, to the board of Apple. John Dvorak suggested on 30 August that Schmidt could be an intermediary to a Sun-Apple deal.

That same day, Dan Farber, senior editor at ZDNet, replied, essentially stating that such a possibility was unthinkable.

So, we will have to wait and see what happens.

Data Center Resources (and the Data Center in a Box)

There is an excellent resource (blog?) titled The Server Rack FAQ which has excellent articles, many complete with videos. The writing is excellent and the site appears to be quite comprehensive.

There is another blog called Data Center Links which has lots of good news as well as a good but not overwhelming set of links. Go check the links out!

There is also the Data Center Knowledge web site which seems to be an excellent and frequently updated news source relating to data center topics.

One topic seems to be hot: data centers in a container. Sun came out a while ago with the Sun Modular Datacenter (also known as Project Blackbox). HP has the Performance Optimized Datacenter (POD). Data Center Knowledge has a nice video about the HP POD. There’s also a nice discussion with HP about the POD from NetworkWorld. Dell announced that they will be powering Microsoft’s cloud initiative with data center containers.

Sun Microsystems has a lot of videos, including many about their data center in a box – including a tour or two, as well as an intriguing test of the durability and operational capability of the data center in a box.

Even IBM is in the market with their Enterprise Modular Data Center (EMDC). CNET had a nice article on IBM’s EMDC, as did DataKnowledge.

This is definitely an exciting area to watch.

An up-coming conference is the Data Center World conference in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 8-12, 2009. I can’t speak authoritatively to whether it is good or bad, but I would say given the presenters and topics and so forth, it sounds like a conference to consider.

There are a couple of journals that might be worth checking out: the Data Centre Management journal from the United Kingdom and the Data Center Journal in the United States.

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