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Java on Linux: State of the Union

Java on Linux: State of the Union

Linux is taking the world of Java application servers by storm. Recently, Sun Microsystems hosted an event to tout the adoption of the latest version of the enterprise Java platform, known as Java 2 platform, Enterprise Edition or simply J2EE 1.4. At this event, many of the application server vendors were present. Nearly all of them said Linux is making huge gains as the platform of choice for developing and deploying enterprise Java applications.

The event featured a panel with well-known application server vendors IBM, BEA, Oracle, JBOSS and Sun. It also included smaller vendors Trifork and Pramati. The panel covered a wide array of topics, from open source to Web services to Linux.

When the subject of Linux came up, the vendors uniformly agreed that Linux was a fast growing platform, and very important to their respective businesses. IBM WebSphere product executive Mark Heid proclaimed "Linux is the dead-center of our strategy." IBM's WebSphere application server does provide support for a wide array of Linux platforms including Red Hat, United Linux, and Red Flag Linux, the Chinese-government sanctioned version of the operating system.

Mike McHugh, Vice President of Engineering, WebLogic Platform, BEA said that Linux was the application server vendor's fastest growing platform. He also suggested that enterprises are shaking off their past reticence to developer and deploy on Linux. "Customers are pulling it," said McHugh, suggesting that enterprise IT environments may be ahead of vendors in their support and adoption of Linux.

Even Sun, who has been pushing Solaris x86 hard recently, said that Linux was the second most popular download, after Windows. "We see it as a huge part of our market," said Jeff Jackson, Sun's Vice President of Engineering for J2EE. He indicated Sun has seen more than 1 million downloads of the Linux version of its latest application server release. While downloads do not equate to actual usage of product, this does suggest popularity of Linux by users of Java on servers. This also calls out a shift in demand for a company that makes the lion's share of its revenue on Solaris-based servers.

Unabashed support for Linux was not universal. Marc Fleury, controversial CEO of the open source application server JBOSS opined that Linux has had a secondary effect on JBoss's business. "Our business isn't really affected much by Linux directly, although we believe it has paved the way for open source and actually accelerated adoption of JBoss," said Fleury. Other vendors said the Java platform insulates them from Linux. "What is under the application server is abstracted away from the Java developer," said Bill Pataky, Senior Director in Borland's tools division.

The participants were in agreement that the most important innovation of the latest release of J2EE was the inclusion of Web services. Web services is a set of technologies and standards that make it easier to integrate enterprise software applications across internet protocols. "I think the inclusion of Web services is the most exciting thing about [J2EE]1.4, " said Jackson. The latest release of J2EE also includes requirements for conformance to Web services standards from the WS-I organization. This was done for more than technical reasons. "Standards compliance is a big cost-saver," said Vijay Pullur, CEO of Indian application server vendor Pramati.

The most controversial exchange of the event was over the topic of open sourcing Java. IBM recently sent an open letter to Sun suggesting the two companies work together on this topic. JBoss' Fleury was characteristically direct on this issue. "Don't do it, Sun. It's a trap," Fleury said, suggesting it was a ploy by other companies to wrest control of Java from Sun.

Sun CEO Scott McNealy angrily dismissed the notion of open sourcing Java at an industry event. But Sun's Jackson was a bit more conciliatory. "Open source has been good for Sun." He also added that an open source Java specification would still have to go through the Java Community Process, the standards approval mechanism for the Java platform. The fact that these two messages are at odds indicates that the debate over the future of Java and its source code is far from over.

More Stories By Bill Roth

Bill Roth is a Silicon Valley veteran with over 20 years in the industry. He has played numerous product marketing, product management and engineering roles at companies like BEA, Sun, Morgan Stanley, and EBay Enterprise. He was recently named one of the World's 30 Most Influential Cloud Bloggers.

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Most Recent Comments
Rivas 06/14/04 12:58:09 AM EDT

Re: Linux != x386
Go to They have Java for Linux Power PC

Rivas 06/14/04 12:57:51 AM EDT

Re: Linux != x386
Go to They have Java for Linux Power PC

timg 05/05/04 11:25:06 PM EDT

I can see that Java is exploding in the market place. The fact that Sun has only had people download Java for Linux and Windows. This would indicate that there are no other people using Java?

The reality is that Jini is taking off and there are a lot of JVMs available for everything from cell phones to to Cisco routers. It seems that we are just getting into the golden age of Java, if you ask me.

davec 05/05/04 09:56:27 AM EDT

He also suggested that enterprises are shaking off their past *reticence* to developer and deploy on Linux.

I think the word here should be reluctance.

Jeff 05/05/04 07:33:05 AM EDT

Linux != x386

Like most commerical software vendors, Sun assumes that all Linux users are running on an x386 architecture. Up to date java development tools do not exist for Linux on other archetectures. As a Linux on powerpc user, I would love to develop java under linux, but it is just not possible. MacOSX runs java, so the architecture is obvious supported, and java runs under linux, so the software environment is supported. Why can't these two come together and give me a linux ppc version of java??

paul 05/04/04 11:17:44 PM EDT

This article only echos what we have been doing for some time, namely Java on Linux. Java on Linux rocks. We develop both J2EE and Java client Swing based Web Start and desktop type applications.

Funny that someone would place PHP on the same level as Java. If it were not so ridiculous, it would actually be funny. Develop for me a truly scalable system with a shared object repository running on multiple server farms in PHP please. NOT!!

Java has a long life, and like JBoss, I do not want Java open sourced. I do want the JCP to include open source developers and advocates, just as it currently does. There are a lot of good ideas and extensions in the Open Source Java community (like Apache, Struts, Hibernate, etc.), and great Application Servers like Tomcat and JBoss.

Open source developers are crucial to the further development of Java. But we do not want, desire, or need, a GPL Java.

Why? I fear either one of two problems with an Open Source Java (1) It becomes so large that it becomes impractical to deploy; (2) No centralized control means, no central authority and support becomes much more difficult to maintain and keep abreat of. Java is mammoth in size now. Can we imagine if all of the Open Source projects and frameworks were folded into Java? (3) It fragements into so many different varieties, it becomes useless. (4) The specs change way too fast; --acutally a problem already. (5) A reiteration of different frameworks start competing with each other so that a standardized Java becomes untenable and unmanagable.

What I would like to ask is what is Java missing today that open source would provide to Java? Multi-platform support? Has it. Consistent APIs? There. Multiple choice solutions from propreitary and Open source developers? Check. More than one way to implement similar solutions? Check. Native and JVM/JITs from a variety of sources? Check. Freedom to create your own framworks? Check. Published APIs and even source code? If you are a part of the JCP, yes.

So exactly what does Open Sourcing Java into the Public Domain buy us?

The problem so many have in the Open Source community (to which I contribute and like), is that unless something is in the public domain and allows you free access to modify it any way you want (I mean the core or what constitutes valid Java standards concerning byte code instruction here), many will discount it and assume it is fully proprietary. That is certainly not the case with Java. Sun has been very generous with Java when they did not have to be and they still are.

That being said, I would love to see Java have a tighter integration with Linux. I do think this is a worthy goal to work towards and I would like to see the JCP take more steps in this direction. IMHO, what we do not need is to give into MS NET, which will invariably serve to fragment code development into two camps: (1) the MS only camp, (2) The Mono DOT.gnu NET camps. I doubt that MS will allow them to be compatible for very long, and if MS decides to pull the plug on Open Source NET development (in the area of patents and lawsuits), NET Linux code is toast.

Javasoft has never threatened anyone who adheres to the Java standards, and have followed the license agreements. Read them sometimes. They are very liberal and open,as is membership to the JCP.

Matt 05/04/04 07:34:04 PM EDT

This article for better or worse completely ignores the coming of Longhorn and what that means for Java and Linux. IMO, the fusion of the two, or at least seamless interoperability of Java on Linux is the one that that will allow both to continue 3 years from now as a dominant, cohesive competitor for Longhorn. The desktop and the server are slowly having their lines blurred, and soon the day will come when just being a good server tool won't be enough, the client side will have to be mature, friendly and feature rich as well. It had better happen soon, or else...

John Robertson 05/04/04 12:26:04 PM EDT

I never considered Java a player for anything but database-centric, web based apps. I am a C/C++ coder myself. Please check out a free download of one of the apps I have written:

However, for web-based apps, PHP is a great tool, and the most popular web-scripting language on the Interenet.

I didn't say Java was dead, I just implied that open-sourcing it now won't do much to check the declining market share it holds. BTW, COBOL has been a slowly declining niche market for at least a decade. How many CompSci curriculums have COBOL classes?

PianoMan 05/04/04 11:43:06 AM EDT

OK Einstein, let's see you write WordPerfect or Auto-CAD in PHP, then you have something to talk about.

As for my team, they will be blowing the dust off their C++ skills... Java was much cooler when we needed to consider multiple platforms... that list is down to two (Linux and Win32) and in a bit I expect to see Win32 off that list... so we need cross-platform why?!

Spanky 05/04/04 11:17:46 AM EDT

LOL! You're a real comedian! The afterburners have just been turned on for Java, and you claim its demise? Yea, right! We'll bury it right next to COBOL, which was pronounced DOA by guys like you some twenty years ago!

John Robertson 05/04/04 10:28:03 AM EDT

Open sourcing Java is irrelevant at this point in time. PHP has overtaken Java in developer mindshare, and more than lives up to any hype surrounding it. Java is already relegated to a dying niche market of folks who have already adopted it.

Shame on SUN for missing their opportunity.

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