Sun makes crucial step toward open source J2EE

Sun Microsystems Inc. has moved one step closer to certifying an open-source application server as J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) compatible, a company official revealed on Friday.

The Santa Clara, California, company has awarded a scholarship worth several hundred thousand dollars to the ObjectWeb Consortium, a nonprofit organization based in Montbonnot Saint Martin, France, so it can begin certification testing on its JOnAS (Java Open Application Server) software, said Onno Kluyt, director of Sun's Java Community Process Program Management Office.

Sun established the scholarship program in August 2002 as a way of encouraging open source Java development. The company has committed US$3 million in software and support services to the program over three years, with a goal of helping 30 open source projects per year achieve Java certification. ObjectWeb is the first organization to receive a scholarship to certify a J2EE server, Kluyt said.

Only one other entity, the JBoss Group LLC, has ever applied for a J2EE scholarship, Kluyt said. JBoss's application was rejected, however, because Sun's scholarships are awarded only to nonprofit organizations, Kluyt said. "The JBoss Group is a commercial company, so it's hard to see how that fits with the purpose of the program," he said.

Sun is in negotiations now with ObjectWeb to work out the details of the certification process, which requires a great deal of engineering work, some of which will be supported by Sun engineers as part of the scholarship grant. This process could take several months, Kluyt predicted. "There's actually a lot of detail to how that works out," he said.

ObjectWeb was founded in 2002 to foster the development of a wide range of open source middleware, including JOnAS.

The scholarship award is the second major accomplishment for ObjectWeb in the last two months. In August, Linux vendor Red Hat Inc. announced plans to bundle JOnAS as part of its Red Hat Advanced Server product by the end of the year.

A J2EE-certified open source application server would not necessarily have an immediate impact on enterprise application server vendors such as BEA Systems Inc. or IBM Corp., but it affect companies such as JBoss, said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with Red Monk LLC. "I think it does put the pressure on JBoss," he said. "If I have a tight budget and all of a sudden I have an open source J2EE-certified app server, that's something I'm going to pay attention to."

JBoss, which has had a largely acrimonious relationship with Sun, this week announced plans to formally join Sun's Java Community Process, a move that JBoss officials described as designed to reduce tensions between the two companies.

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