The Sun is going to shine on Python

Today is my first day as a Sun employee.


Tim Bray was one of the first people to respond to my “looking for a job” blog post. I have not written about it much, but I’ve been very impressed with how Sun has handled the JRuby project. Tim told me that Sun was interested in ramping up their support for Python in a similar fashion, and asked if I would be interested in coming to Sun to lead such an effort.


After a bunch of talking and interviewing and so forth, it turns out that I was very interested. Long time readers know that I am a dynamic languages guy, going back to the original dynamic language, Lisp. I spent 2.75 of the last 4 years at OSAF working on a big desktop application written in Python (Contrary to some recent blog posts, Python was not a factor in the difficulties that we had with Chandler). The prospect of doing something that would help Python was very attractive. However, Sun has been slow to embrace dynamic languages (whether atop the JVM or not), and Sun’s history in open source has been somewhat checkered in my view. So there were some questions that I had to answer for myself before deciding to go to Sun (especially since I had 3 other very good options):

1. Can Sun actually work with an open source community?

It’s no secret that I have not been a fan of Sun’s handling of the open sourcing of Java, and it seems like OpenSolaris is having some governance problems of its own at the moment. However, if you look at the way that JRuby has been handled, you’ll see that there are parts of Sun that are learning how to work with a community, and doing a very good job of it. Sun hired two of the leading JRuby contributors and gave them license to keep doing what they had been doing. The JRuby guys have been well received by the “C” Ruby community and even the CLR/.NET Ruby community. In addition Sun has been investing in Ruby via support in NetBeans and via some collaborations with the University of Tokyo on the C VM for Ruby. Over the years, I’ve met many people at Sun who understand a collaborative development style. Many of those folks are committers on Apache projects.

2. How serious is Sun about dynamic languages and how deep does that support go?

Sun is (finally?) very serious about this. As part of Sun’s new direction, Sun wants to give developers the ability to use whatever tool sets they want. Ruby, Python, PHP, Java. On or off OpenSolaris. On or off the JVM. There is an official project, John Rose’s DaVinci Machine project, to modify the JVM to support dynamic languages. As far as Python goes, Frank Wierzbicki, the maintainer of Jython, started at Sun last Monday, so there will be at least two of us working on Python related stuff. That includes Jython, Python support for Netbeans, and some other stuff that we haven’t quite figured out yet. We definitely will be looking for things that we can do to support CPython and the Python language as a whole. This is not just about Python on on the JVM. Sun will try to make its platforms, OpenSolaris and the JVM, the best place to develop and deploy Python applications. But at the moment that’s a goal and not a reality, so there is lots to do.

What’s Next?

Frank and I will be at PyCon in Chicago in a week or so. One of my goals (besides hooking back up with people since I missed PyCon last year) will be to sit down and talk to anyone who has ideas about sensible things that Sun could do to help Python. In the mean time, my e-mail address will be <FirstName>.<LastName>

Oh, one more thing. My new job title is “Principal Engineer, Dynamic Languages and Tools”, so expect to see me dinking around with other dynamic language stuff as well.

My thanks to Tim Bray for helping to make this happen.

It looks like it’s going to take a little longer to get my e-mail address fully operational…
Update 2:
Ok, e-mail is set and ready to go.

33 thoughts on “The Sun is going to shine on Python

  1. Dirkjan

    Congratulations! It’s nice to see that Sun is finally taking Python more serious besides their Ruby efforts.

    FWIW, your most recent posts don’t seem to show up in Planet Python (which I think they did before?). You may want to check up on that.

  2. Garrett

    Congratulations! Glad to hear your job search went so well, and I’m sure you’ll be able to do some great things at Sun.

  3. David N. Welton

    First of all: congratulations, and good luck!

    “Sun is (finally?) very serious about this. As part of Sunรขโ‚ฌโ„ขs new direction, Sun wants to give developers the ability to use whatever tool sets they want.”

    You could have put “again” in the parenthesis. Years ago, Sun put a lot of support into Tcl, and then dumped it in favor of sinking everything into Java.

  4. anjan bacchu

    Hi ted,


    It’s good to know that sun is still interested even if solaris/JVM is not the target of the dynamic languages.

    Does that mean that as long as SUN hardware is used, they don’t quite care what happens ?

    Perl : I’ve known LISP on JVM, Smalltalk on JVM. How about a Perl on JVM. Is that going to be too ambitious ? Maybe in 2 years after Sun has learnt enough from Jython and JRuby ?

    Thank you,


  5. Leo Simons

    Congrats! Sounds like that might be a really fun job!

    Can I submit feature requests? I would really like to have a standard, supported, efficient (preserve streaming!) way to run WSGI apps written in python 2.5 inside of a servlet engine.

    Setuptools would then need to grow an ability to produce .war files ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Mike

    We have gradually been phasing out Java usage in favor of Python. Python has better libraries, a better C++ interface, better numerics, etc. Overall, I think Jython support by Sun is too little too late.

  7. pachi

    This is good news for the python community!.
    One place where Sun could help python is improving python support in OpenOffice (adding support in netbeans to write extensions as easily as one can do with Java).
    There’s some work done on it, but python is there a second citizen when compared to StarBasic or Java, despite it’s very good fit for the task.

  8. Octavian

    Welcome aboard! We are looking forward to getting Python/Jython support in NetBeans.

  9. Randal L. Schwartz

    Perl on a JVM isn’t very likely. Perl needs a more dynamic class system than the JVM provides natively, and therefore, the class system would have to be interpreted, rather than native. It’s the same reason that Parrot (for Perl 6) isn’t the JVM either.

  10. Ted Leung Post author

    Dirkjan: Thanks for the note, I’ve sent the appropriate mail.

    Bob: Yes it looks like I will be at Java One this year.

    Anjan: Sun is a solutions oriented company. If people want Python on Windows on x64, Sun wants to sell it to them. And support and service contracts too. As far as Perl – if Sun hears lots of customer demand for Perl on JVM, then I’d say it’s a possibility. But it’s important to note that both JRuby and Jython (as well as Ruby and Python) were Not Invented at Sun.

    Ryan: see the update.

    Leo, pachi: thanks for the suggestions – no promises at this point.

    Mike: This is also about CPython, not just Jython.

    Simon: good to hear

  11. David T.

    Congratulations on your new work! Does this mean that we will actually be able to compile 64-bit Python 2.5 on Solaris 10 without having to sacrifice 2 virgins??

  12. Duncan McGreggor

    Ted, just read the news — congrats!

    Despite Solaris not being a good python platform, I have been a fan of Sun since my sysadmin days. I was delighted with the announcement of OpenSolaris and have followed ZFS developments with great interest. As such, I am very excited about your news. Twisted dev’s tend to have a fairly negative view of Solaris (in fact, I may be the *only* one who likes it!), but I would love to see Solaris become a platform that the Twisted community could recommend without reservation (I’ve got a nicely loaded Netra 240 that I do some dev work on, but would like to use it much more than I do currently).

    Thanks for pioneering this!

    I look forward to seeing how your work at Sun develops ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Januar Simarmata

    I don’t know you as well ๐Ÿ™‚ I just get your blog site after reading news on slashdot. It’s good to have interesting job where you can do it remotely, which is something I can’t get now.

    Congratz anyway!

  14. AK

    Good news, but it maybe too late for Sun to act. The company I work for, an investment bank, may move to IronPython very soon. Sad.

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