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Sun shines on Linux

Linux gets another boost as Sun announces that it is porting the latest version of its JDK to the open source code operating system.

Linux, that increasingly popular operating system, got another boost today as Sun Microsystems announced that it is porting the latest version of its Java Development Kit to the open source code operating system.

Sun said its JDK 1.2, which is expected to debut this month, will now ship in a Linux version, joining planned ports for Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX operating system and Sun's own Solaris operating system.

The JDK, which contains development tools, class libraries, and a Java virtual machine, will let developers build applications that run on Linux and take advantage of the latest Java technologies.

Sun's JDK contains all of the technologies that make up the Java platform--including the Java Virtual Machine and class libraries--and forms the basis of many Java development tools, browsers, and other applications from Sun and other companies.

Java tools have been available for Linux through various user-supported sources, but Sun has never officially endorsed the operating system. Java, like Linux, is experiencing a groundswell of user-generated support, through free postings and active newsgroups.

According to Gina Centoni, a Java product manager at Sun, portions of prior JDKs could be used in Linux, but Sun has not explicitly supported that use.

Sun expects the port to be a big hit on college campuses, which are strong Linux backers. But whether the Fortune 1000 will show interest is anyone's guess, said Centoni. "We have been anxiously trying to understand the enterprise's real use of Linux. Fortune 1000 companies are our bread-and-butter, but we are getting mixed reports about enterprise use. We hear about clandestine installations of Linux where CEOs doesn't even know about it."

Carl Howe, an analyst with Forrester Research, said that despite a growing selection of Linux-based software, and repeated claims by industry pundits that Linux will eventually challenge Sun's own Solaris and Microsoft's Windows NT, big companies are still wary of moving to Linux.

"Large companies tend to shy away from it, largely because there are few applications, no big-name support, and not a lot of easy places to buy it," said Howe.

"Porting the JDK to Linux is mostly for completeness of coverage, as far as Sun is concerned," he said. "Sun's whole premise [with Java] is write-once, run-anywhere, and that means you have to run on all OSes."

The Linux JDK is expected to ship by year's end, according to Centoni. It will be posted to Sun's Web site as a free download.

JDK 1.2 itself, which has been delayed twice, will finally debut on other operating systems by the end of this month, she said.

As previously reported, JDK 1.2 is expected to substantially boost Java performance through a new just-in-time compiler, to make Java security tighter but more flexible, and to include compatibility with the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) standard, better connectivity to databases, additional support for JavaBeans component applications, and a host of other improvements.