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5/1/2008
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SpringSource Offers App Deployment Platform

SpringSource Application Platform 1.0 is an open source, lightweight version of an application server and will compete with products from Oracle, IBM, and Red Hat.

SpringSource, which has automated aspects of complex Java development with its Spring Framework, wants to make deployment of resulting applications easier with its SpringSource Application Platform 1.0.

The open source company said this week its lightweight version of an application server will compete with commercial application servers, such as Oracle's WebLogic and IBM's WebSphere, as well as Red Hat's JBoss. But for it to compete with such heavyweights, SpringSource will need to convince IT managers that it can be used in production.

Rod Johnson, the lead developer of Spring Framework and CEO of SpringSource, said in an interview that JBoss got established because it was an option for running Java applications while they were under development. It could be downloaded for free and used to test drive application code instead of requiring developers to license a commercial product. As JBoss proved itself fit for development, some users began to implement it in production. Johnson believes the SpringSource Application Platform 1.0 will follow a similar path.

"Application Platform brings to the application server category the same benefit we brought to the development category," that is, simplification and ease of use, said Johnson.

It also, by design, falls short of what the commercial application servers can do because the Spring development method seeks to avoid the complex requirements of producing Enterprise Java Beans. Application Platform won't run EJBs, while WebLogic and WebSphere and open source JBoss all will.

As a lighter-weight application server, Application Platform 1.0 can detect what Java runtime elements are needed for a given set of Java modules and implement only what's needed, giving it a smaller footprint, said Johnson.

To produce Application Platform, SpringSource has seized upon work done by the OSGi Alliance, founded in 1999 to promote Java module interoperability. The alliance is an industry consortium that includes IBM, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, and SAP. OSGi has produced a Java module-handling capability that recognizes which version of a component has been called, what its dependencies are, and what other components will work with it. SpringSource built the OSGi module handling into the Dynamic Module Kernel of Application Platform 1.0.

Another element of SpringSource's application server is the Eclipse Foundation's Equinox, a Java runtime environment for applications produced by the many tools that plug into the Eclipse programmer's workbench. Equinox is a Java device equalizer, allowing Java code to gear itself to both large servers and small devices, such as personal digital assistants or smartphones.

The SpringSource application server also makes use of Apache Tomcat, an engine for running Java Servlet commands on a Web server and managing a Web application.

Johnson emphasized that SpringSource was taking a natural step by venturing into the deployment environment. The concepts guiding the tools used to develop lightweight Java applications need to be applied at deployment time as well. While Spring started out with a core Java developer's framework, what's now known as the Spring Portfolio includes Spring .Net, Spring Web Services, Spring LDAP, and Spring Security as well as the framework.

SpringSource is likely to find that the competition is tougher the further it moves from development into deployment middleware, an arena that IBM, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and Red Hat's JBoss -- each with its own Java expertise -- all aspire to.

Application Platform 1.0 is available as beta open source code at the SpringSource site, with general availability coming in June. SpringSource will offer free download and Enterprise subscription versions, with no pricing set yet on an Enterprise subscription.

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