Open-Source Geronimo Takes on WebLogic, WebSphere

By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2004-11-16

Open-Source Geronimo Takes on WebLogic, WebSphere

LAS VEGAS–Developers working on Geronimo say they want to make the Apache Software Foundations Java application server a reliable open-source rival to BEA Systems Inc.s WebLogic or IBMs WebSphere services.

"We are trying to build a production class J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] server" that will make people comfortable with the concept of using an open-source application server in corporate data centers, said Alan Cabrera, a New York-based software development executive who is helping to develop Geronimos security features.

"Our intention is that its going to be the same caliber as WebLogic and WebSphere," which are both widely used application servers in the corporate world, Cabrera said.

The Geronimo team wants to produce an application server that is strong enough to encourage developers to use it as a production platform, rather than just as a lower-cost platform for prototyping and testing, Cabrera said.

Attendees at the ApacheCon U.S. 2004 conference here this week were told that Geronimo has reached some major milestones toward release as a production application server.

Geronimo is currently under review by Sun Microsystems Inc. Java experts for J2EE TCK (Technical Compatibility Kit) certification, Cabrera said. Certification would allow Geronimo to be an open-source J2EE implementation under the standard Berkeley Software Distribution license, he noted. But he would not estimate how soon Geronimo would receive certification.

The availability of a new open-source application server will likely be welcomed by the market because no other BSD-licensed J2EE application server is available.

Geronimo was built with a compact kernel of only about 32 Kbytes of code for fast performance. The application server is also highly modular, so developers dont have to shut down and restart the server kernel every time they load a component or test an application, Cabrera said. This factor makes Geronimo very stable and productive for developers and for data center managers, he noted.

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF), which is coordinating Geronimos development, is confident that a lingering dispute with JBoss Inc. over IP (intellectual property) rights wont derail the release of a certified version of Geronimo, said Geir Magnusson Jr., a member of the foundations board of directors.

In October 2003, JBoss sent a letter to ASF claiming that Geronimo violated JBoss IP rights because it contained code from JBoss application server.

Click here to read about Hewlett-Packard Co.s decision to work with JBoss on application server support.

Nearly a year later, ASF has replied, saying that its own research showed that the code in question had been written by Apaches own developer community and thus that no IP rights violations exist.

Next Page: When will Geronimo be certified?

Certifying Geronimo

The foundation reviewed the code and concluded that no property rights violation existed in November 2003. But it didnt return its reply to JBoss until the end of October. "We are a volunteer organization," and the official reply was "put on the back burner because it wasnt a priority for us," Magnusson said.

"We did our due diligence," and the foundation is confident that there are no grounds for JBoss to proceed further, he said. "We just want to put this behind us at this point," Magnusson said. It remains to be seen, he said, whether JBoss will raise any additional questions or objections.

Magnusson declined to predict when Geronimo will be certified and ready to go to market as a finished product.

In August 2003, Geronimo team members suggested that the application server would be completed in a year, Magnusson said.

That prediction took on a life of its own and became a deadline of Aug. 6, 2004, which came and went. "It was really a joke and nobody got the joke," he said. Now, the Geronimo team is no longer making firm predictions on when the server will be ready, he said.

Sam Ruby, a member of the ASFs board of directors and a senior technical staff member with IBMs Emerging Technology group in Raleigh, N.C., said he is not personally involved in building J2EE applications or running a J2EE application server.

"But there are IBMers who are interested in Geronimo, and Im interested in helping those people within IBM" who want to participate in the effort to bring an open-source J2EE application server to the market, Ruby said.

Click here to read Sean Gallaghers opinion about what Sun hopes to achieve with its latest marketing campaign for Solaris 10 and Java.

Such an application server will have value in the market, Ruby said, adding that he has seen no indication that either IBM or Sun would view the server as a serious competitive threat to their own products.

Sun is working closely with the Geronimo development team on certification, and that process is working smoothly, Ruby said. "Sun seems to be actively supporting this effort, and I dont see any issues" involving perceived market rivalries, he said.

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