Object and Apache team up on open-source J2EE

ObjectWeb and the Apache Software Foundation, which each develop an open-source Java application server, have reached a...

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

The two groups agreed 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.

ObjectWeb and the ASF hope to certify their products as compliant with version 1.4 of Sun's J2EE (Java 2, Enterprise Edition) specification some time next year.

Certification helps ensure compatibility among application servers from different suppliers, allowing customers to mix and match products. It is also seen as a basic checklist item for many corporate users.

ObjectWeb, a consortium of government and business developers, was founded in 2002 to foster development of a range of open-source middleware. It oversees products such as 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.

The agreement will iron out licensing issues that had prevented the companies from distributing each other's code.

The ASF releases its code under the Apache open-source licence, terms of which allow its code to be reused by ObjectWeb. ObjectWeb typically uses a licence called the LGPL, (GNU Lesser General public Licence) which does not allow the Apache group to include ObjectWeb's code in Geronimo.

ObjectWeb will distribute two of its application server components - JOTM (Java Open Transaction Manager) and ASM, a Java byte code manipulation framework - under the BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) open-source licence, 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.

By pooling their resources, the groups hope to speed the evolution of their products and also get them certified faster for J2EE version 1.4.

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

"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, Oracle and Sun. They also compete with a third, perhaps better known open-source application server called JBoss, developed by JBoss Group.

After a period of animosity between the companies, JBoss and Sun reached an agreement in November under which JBoss would 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 free because both are non-profit organisations.

Linux distributor RedHat 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 suppliers, said Shawn Willett, a senior analyst with Current Analysis.

Support from IBM is what helped "tip the scales" for Linux, Willett said. It is not in the interests of Sun or IBM, who each sell their 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 as competitors, ObjectWeb vice-president Jean-Pierre Laisné said.

Customers can choose between the implementations which have "different trade-offs for development, deployment and production purposes", he added.

James Niccolai writes for IDG News Service

Read more on Operating systems software