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Red Hat and Sun sign deal to collaborate on Java

Red Hat and Sun are getting together. Could this lead to broader collaboration?

Red Hat and Sun Microsystems announced today an agreement to advance open-source Java? software. Red Hat has signed Sun's broad contributor agreement that covers participation in all Sun-led open source projects by all Red Hat engineers.

This is what happens when you get the two biggest open-source companies on the planet. It's what a partnership should look like. It's also a great example of how competitors can compete while still cooperating on baseline technology.

What happens next is anyone's guess, but I think collaboration between the two competitors is a Very Good Thing. Here's what they're up to:

To help foster innovation and advancement of the Java technology ecosystem, Red Hat will also share its developers' contributions with Sun as part of the OpenJDK community. These agreements pave the way for Red Hat to create a fully compatible, open source Java Development Kit (JDK) for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, including the Java Runtime Environment (JRE).

As a contributor, Red Hat will have full access to the OpenJDK code base as well as the Java SE 6 TCK to eventually deliver a JRE for Red Hat Enterprise Linux that would significantly enhance Java software applications. Red Hat customers will benefit from a highly optimized, accelerated runtime for JBoss Enterprise Middleware in a Linux environment.

"Red Hat fully supports Sun's courageous decision to open source Java technology. After more than 10 years of continuous leadership, the Java technology ecosystem will enter an era of accelerated innovation and benefit from extreme pervasiveness on a wide range of environments," said Sacha Labourey, CTO of JBoss, a division of Red Hat. "Through these strategic agreements, Red Hat commits to contribute to the Java platform and distribute a compatible, open source Java software implementation."

Hopefully this agreement will spur others beyond Red Hat to collaborate on Java development. Java and .Net continue to be major forces within the enterprise. The more collaboration to drive open-source Java forward, the better for companies worried about lock-in.

Now here's one wild, probably ridiculous thought: What would happen if this initial agreement paved the way for these two companies to collaborate on a wide range of projects? Would a merger make sense at some point? Stranger things have happened....