ObjectWeb, Apache team on open-source J2EE

ObjectWeb and the Apache Software Foundation, each of which develops an open-source Java application server, have reached a technology sharing agreement designed to accelerate certification of their products under Sun Microsystems Inc.'s latest Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) standard.

The two groups agreed in principle in November to work more closely on the development of their software. They have now ratified a plan that lets the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) use middleware components developed by ObjectWeb in the ASF's application server, the organizations said Monday.

ObjectWeb and the ASF each hope to certify their products as compliant with Version 1.4 of Sun's J2EE specification sometime in 2004, they said. Certification helps ensure compatibility among application servers from different vendors, allowing customers to mix and match products. It's also seen as a basic checklist item for many corporate users.

ObjectWeb, a consortium of government and business developers based in Grenoble, France, was founded in 2002 to foster development of a range of open-source middleware. The projects it oversees include the Jonas application server, which was launched in 1999. The ASF, which also supports several open-source projects, announced its Geronimo application server in August.

Monday's agreement irons out a licensing issue that had prevented the companies from distributing each other's code. The ASF releases its code under the Apache open-source license, terms of which allow its code to be reused by ObjectWeb. ObjectWeb typically uses a license called the GNU Lesser General Public License, which doesn't allow the Apache group to include ObjectWeb's code in Geronimo.

ObjectWeb said it will distribute two of its application server components -- Java Open Transaction Manager and ASM, a Java byte code manipulation framework -- under the Berkeley Software Distribution open-source license, allowing the components to be reused in the ASF's Geronimo project. Jonas already uses components developed by the Apache Software Foundation, including its Tomcat Web server, the groups noted.

By pooling their resources, the groups hope to speed the evolution of their products and get them certified more quickly for J2EE Version 1.4.

Sun, which invented Java and oversees its development, said it welcomes the close partnership between the two organizations.

"If this accelerates the development of open-source projects, then that's great and Sun welcomes it," said Glen Martin, Sun's Java strategist.

Jonas and Geronimo both compete with proprietary application servers from IBM, BEA Systems Inc., Oracle Corp., Sun and others. They also compete with a third, perhaps better-known open-source application server called JBoss, developed by JBoss Group LLC in Atlanta.

After a period of animosity between the companies, JBoss and Sun reached an agreement in November under which JBoss will license the J2EE compatibility test suites from Sun, allowing JBoss to set about certifying its product. While JBoss pays Sun a considerable fee to use the test suites, the ASF and ObjectWeb have access to them for no charge because both are nonprofit organizations.

Linux distributor RedHat Inc. said earlier this year that it would bundle ObjectWeb's Jonas application server as an enhancement to its Red Hat Advanced Server product, providing Jonas with a distribution boost. However, Jonas still lacks worldwide support services for enterprises, as well as support from major hardware vendors, said Shawn Willett, a senior analyst at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va.

Support from IBM helped tip the scales for Linux, Willett said. It isn't in the interests of Sun or IBM, each of which sells its own application server, to distribute an open-source application server with their products, he noted.

Jonas and Geronimo will remain two distinct products, although the development teams see themselves more as partners than competitors, ObjectWeb Vice President Jean-Pierre Laisne said in a statement. Customers can choose between the implementations, which have "different trade-offs for development, deployment and production purposes," he said.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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