Open-source app servers make headway
Three open-source projects compatible with Sun's enterprise Java standard are in the works
IDG News Service - Three open-source Java application servers are expected to be certified as compatible with Sun Microsystems Inc.'s enterprise Java standard by the end of the year, potentially offering businesses lower cost alternatives to commercial application servers from the likes of BEA Systems Inc., IBM and Oracle Corp.
Even enterprises uninterested in moving to the new software could benefit by using the threat of going open-source as leverage to negotiate better deals with commercial vendors.
Geronimo, a project of the Apache Software Foundation, and Jonas, overseen by Europe's ObjectWeb consortium, both announced recently that they have begun testing their products against Sun's J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) 1.4 test suites. Geronimo said it hopes to be certified as J2EE-compliant by August, while Jonas is aiming for the second half of the year.
JBoss Inc., whose application server is already widely used, is being cagey about when it expects to complete Sun's compatibility tests, but the company is likely to announce certification as early as next month, according to John Rymer, a vice president and industry analyst at Forrester Research Inc.
While the Geronimo project is still immature -- it was launched just nine months ago -- all three offerings aim to provide businesses with a low-cost alternative to commercial application servers from the likes of BEA Systems Inc., IBM and Oracle Corp. At the very least, customers should be able to use the open-source products as leverage to negotiate better deals from primary vendors, Rymer said.
"Open-source application servers are a bona fide competitive force in the market for J2EE application servers," Rymer wrote in a research note published last month.
J2EE certification isn't a prerequisite for enterprise use, as shown by JBoss, which already has thousands of paying customers. But it can lend added credibility to open-source projects, particularly for IT executives still skittish about the open-source model. The specification also ensures a degree of interoperability between products from the various Java vendors. If a customer writes to one application server and decides to switch to a different platform later, the amount of porting work should be relatively light if both are J2EE-certified.
That was important for travel company National Leisure Group Inc. (NLG), which began developing an application 18 months ago that lets consumers book flights, hotels and car rentals over the Web. There was no Java-certified open-source application server available at the time, but the company picked JBoss partly because NLG knew it adhered closely to the J2EE standard, said Jamie Cash, director of technical architecture at the company.
"We wanted to stay as close to the
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