JAVAONE - GlassFish shows open source at its best

GlassFish is the first project to spring from Sun Microsystem Inc.'s decision to open source its Java programming code and Ken Drachnik, one of its chief evangelists, points to the project as a lesson in how open source spurs innovation.

Drachnik is the community development and marketing manager for the Open Source Group at Sun. GlassFish is the open-source project built around Java Enterprise Edition, version 5, which develops software applications targeted at businesses. In an interview with IDG News Service at JavaOne 2007 in San Francisco, Drachnik discussed how GlassFish works and how interest in it has grown. An edited transcript of the interview follows:

IDGNS: What is the significance of the deal announced at JavaOne for Sun to collaborate with Ericsson to support the GlassFish project for open source enterprise applications?

Drachnik: Most Java enterprise applications are transactional in nature, getting data into a database, out of a database and shepherding that to some kind of application. As we go to more sophisticated applications in the enterprise, we can now, with the SIP session initiation protocol that Ericsson is contributing to GlassFish, you can start seeing those kinds of applications blended into an enterprise application. You can go into your CRM database, mouse over a name and see whether they are online. Are they online with their cell phone, or they on a hardline? It tells you what's the best way to contact them at that particular point in time.

IDGNS: How has GlassFish developed over the last two years?

Drachnik: Two years ago, we announced GlassFish was open source at JavaOne in 2005. A year ago, we came out with GlassFish version one, which was the first referenced implementation of Java EE 5. A year later we have version two out, which includes all the implementations that enterprises want. There are now 6,900 members of the GlassFish community and 2.5 million downloads, so it seems like the community is growing.

The promise of speeding those implementations to market has been proven. The last time we did a major revision of Java, J2EE 1.4, it took two to three years for Java licensees to come out with their implementations. Now with open source Java EE 5, those implementations appeared in six months to two years. So we've compressed the time in which these implementations become available, which means we've sped up innovation and enhanced the Java ecosystem.

IDGNS: A lot of people here at JavaOne, such as CEO Jonathan Schwartz, talk about how open sourcing Java can create technology that changes people's lives. How do you see that happening from your perspective?

Drachnik: Ultimately the end users are in charge because they pick the applications that are most useful and most meaningful to them. What happens in open source is that you have all these innovations, all these ideas coming out, but only five or six that become really credible and accepted by the public at large. A good example of that is YouTube. It started with open source software on commodity hardware over a pizza parlor in Burlingame [California]. They had an idea for video sharing and that grew into a $1.6 billion business. The most watched video is of the cat playing the piano. It's been viewed 4 million times. You couldn't have predicted that.