A European middleware consortium called ObjectWeb has teamed up with Red Hat and revealed that it is in negotiations with Sun Microsystems to become the first open source Java 2 Enterprise Edition application server certified as J2EE-compliant.
ObjectWeb was founded in 2002 to foster the development of a range of open source middleware. It now includes 35 separate projects, including Java open application server (JOnAS), which was launched in 1999.
Red Hat has joined ObjectWeb, which counts Bull, France Télécom and the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) among its members.
Red Hat plans to ship a bundled application server as an enhancement to its Red Hat Advanced Server product, said Red Hat executive vice-president of engineering Paul Cormier.
The bundle will include ObjectWeb's JOnAS application server, the Apache Software Foundation's Tomcat servlet container and Apache Web server, he said.
"We'll be in beta before the end of the year," he said.
This will present open source J2EE server supplier JBoss Group with serious competition. "What JOnAS now has is a vendor providing commercial support," said Forrester Research analyst Stacey Quandt. "It really puts them on the map in North America."
Red Hat's move puts pressure not only on competitive open source application servers but on the commercial suppliers as well, Quandt said. "The real impact is not just on JBoss, but also on BEA and IBM WebSphere. BEA and WebSphere are now being squeezed from the bottom," she said.
The key question is whether or not the JOnAS software will become the first open source application server to receive J2EE certification, an expensive process whose price tag has thus far helped prevent the JBoss application server from being certified by Sun.
Sun maintains that JBoss, which is released under an open source licence but controlled by a for-profit company, JBoss Group, should have to pay for its own certification. The JBoss Group has insisted that as an open source project it qualifies for Sun's $3m (£1.8m) scholarship fund, which pays for the certification of not-for-profit projects.
Sun has already called ObjectWeb to initiate negotiations on getting JOnAS certified, said ObjectWeb executive committee president Christophe Ney, but the two parties have not yet determined whether ObjectWeb's organisational structure qualifies it for Sun's certification scholarship programme.
"Superficially, it doesn't look like they can just apply for the scholarship," said a source close to the negotiations who asked not to be identified. "But it does look like INRIA can apply for the scholarship," he added.
Three open source J2EE organisations, JBoss, ObjectWeb and the Core Developers Network, are now "racing" to get their certifications done, the source said.
Sun's executive vice-president of software, Jonathan Schwartz,seemed enthusiastic about the idea of certifying a not-for-profit application server. "If ObjectWeb is just Apache with a different face, we'd love to work with them," he said.
Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service