Red Hat to Oracle: You Don't Own Java

Dennis Byron

Oracle has said that Java is the primary reason it is purchasing Sun. But does Sun own Java? As the JavaOne lovefest kicks off June 2, Red Hat laid down a marker that says Oracle can't buy something Sun doesn't own.


I like the program's name, JBoss Open Choice. I guess that's because I first used the term "open choice" in a research project I did for Red Hat five years ago. The term reflected research I was seeing that said users wanted flexibility to choose between various licensing terms and conditions (Ts&Cs) and would never make decisions based on Ts&Cs but on functionality. Ironically I used it in this project to describe the program Red Hat had just kicked off to work with the Bull-spin-off Java Open Application Server (JOnAS). Of course that was before Red Hat acquired JBoss and began to limit user choice at least from a marketing perspective (from an open source development, Ts&Cs and cultural perspective, Red Hat users are not constrained).


According to Red Hat,

"...the JBoss Enterprise Middleware portfolio now includes solutions for all of the common Java application workloads; from simple web applications, to light and rich Java applications, to Java Enterprise Edition (EE) based applications. Moreover, JBoss platforms support a variety of popular programming models including Spring Framework, Seam and Google Web Toolkit. With this expansion, Red Hat now has one of the most comprehensive Java application server portfolios in the industry."

They don't say so specifically, but what they mean is,

"...as compared to Sun itself and even as compared to Sun after its middleware is merged with Oracle's application server lineup."

The really interesting thing is how infrequently Red Hat mentioned open source in its June 1 press release. Of course it could not avoid its standard boilerplate tag line about open source market leadership and all of the software discussed is available under open source Ts&Cs. But the emphasis -- rightfully so -- is on the open choice that users like you want.


Of course that leads to great debates about stacks of software vs. acquiring software a la carte. But I'll leave that for another day.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 2, 2009 8:28 AM Phillip Phillip  says:

First off I like to know where Red-HAT think they own it.

Sun invented Java - That means they own java and other companies want to further develop that product will need to be license that right. Remember the Microsoft and Sun lawsuit. Microsoft tried changing java code and got sued and lost or they settled out of court. in any case Oracle buying Sun Microsystems will end up with all the rights to java.

Put simply no-one can change how java works internally without Oracle/Sun say so.

Jun 2, 2009 3:45 PM Javelin Javelin  says: in response to Phillip

Ever heard of OpenJDK?  Sun doesn't own Java, it gave it up freely!

Jun 2, 2009 6:44 PM Dave Dave  says:

Legally, I'm not sure where Oracle stands on the ownership of Java.  However, if they are going to be paying the developers that support and enhance Java as a language and development platform then for all intents and purposes, they do own it.  Red Hat would be wise to attempt to work with Oracle, at least for now and not force some kind of showdown.

Jun 4, 2009 10:50 AM Dennis Byron Dennis Byron  says:

Judging from the comments above and a few emails and phone calls I've received, I was not as clear as I should have been in this blog post. 

I think it's because I segued into the little boast about how I first used the name "open choice" for Red Hat five years ago. The key point, which got buried, was that I  meant to talk Java ownership in a "community" sense, not in a legal sense.

On InfoWorld on June 4, top-notch IT journalist Bill Snyder (http://www.infoworld.com/t/development-environments/did-good-larry-or-bad-larry-buy-java-087) digs into the "community ownership" issue directly in his JavaOne wrap-up article. 

Despite the nice things he says about me at the end of the article, he's one of the people who called me up saying "what are you getting at, Dennis?"  So, since you can't all call me up, please take a look at Bill's article.

-- Dennis Byron


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