Much has been made of last week's group of blogs reacting to the onstage JavaONE open source tease, including my own blog (which I won't bother hrefing, since most of you reading this also read that one.
Boy, I was miffed when I wrote that blog! My pal and former Sun colleague, Duncan Davidson did a better job of expressing our joint frustration in his comments on Simon Phipps' "ouch" posting...as people who worked at Sun and long believed that Open Source Java was important, URGENT even.
There's a new crop of people working to free Java. Some of them are working very hard (it's not easy work, I can assure you). Jonathan Schwartz is apparently one of them. As I was leaving Sun, Jonathan assured me that Open Source was a huge component of his strategy for transformation of the company and I believed he was sincere.
But Sun is incredibly bound in internal politics, and even a CEO can't just "make it so" without some jockeying...because the "antibodies" are always there to guard the status quo. JavaLand (as we used to call the group who work on Java at Sun) is almost a law unto itself. Part of the art of running a large group inside of Sun is effectively pushing your group's agenda in Senior Staff in the face of fairly ruthless competition for resources and "thought leadership". Difficult as it may be to believe, not even the CEO can simply tell a Divisional VP what to do, because doing so is the same as negating that person's authority and effectively firing them. Dealing effectively with the VPs at Sun is more like Aikido.
At Sun internal competition is actually a valued cultural norm...internally the company is run sort of like a free market economy. Its a tough job riding herd on so many relentless internal competitors (as Pat Sueltz found out). It is essential to finesse those Divisional VPs. Loiacono (who is a really nice man) was not very effective in this role IMHO. Back in the Day...Ed Zander acting as COO (and de facto VP of Software, no matter who actually sat in the chair) was like some Jedi Master at this practice (Yoda maybe?) and was only rarely trumped by direct appeals to Scott (because next to nobody ever got around Ed). This is one reason that gaining CEO status earlier this year was a big deal for Jonathan. It closes off that route of appeal to Scott and sets him up as the new Jedi Master of Sun.
When I was hired at Sun, it was because Alan Baratz had made a public promise that Java source would be released (under SCSL) to build a source code community and they needed a Community Manager. It was a crummy job. Next to none of the folks in JavaLand wanted Java source to be released in this way, but a public statement had been made. They did everything they could to subvert this required action, ensuring it would be a wasted effort. Barratz was on his way out the door anyway...and Zander wasn't in favor of opening the source.
In my opinion the JavaLand folks were incredibly arrogant about the supremacy of their vision for Java. They didn't want any help, even on SCSL terms. The Open Source movement was treated with suspicion at best. People with an Open Source vision for Java were (and in some cases still are) treated as idiots. With all this prejudice working against it, you might be surprised that even SCSL Java happened at all (much less FOSS Java). "Public announcements must be honored" is another deep cultural value at Sun. Its the whole reason that three years later getting Jason Hunter onstage at JavaONE in 2002 was such a big deal. It meant that JCP rules really were going to change...and it might mean that last week's tease really was a big deal.
Consider Jonathan as the next Jedi Master of Sun. Hey, he's got the ponytail and the hip attitude. I think its probable that Jonathan's part in the now famous Open Source Java tease at JavaONE was another example of Senior Staff politics acting out in public. Its not an elegant way to execute strategy, but a Jedi has to honor local customs.
"Rich, are we going to Open Source Java?"...it demands an answer (as most of the blogs on the topic have mentioned). In front of a reported 20,000 people. So now Rich is on the hook. My last blog on this topic expressed skepticism. I still think the antibodies must be furiously massing to undermine a truly FOSS Java from Sun..., but if they actually manage to release FOSS Java I'll be the first one to cheer...I just hope its not too late. I would really love to see Jonathan and the people trying to change Sun succeed.