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1/28/2008
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Open Source Consolidation: SpringSource Buys Covalent

Covalent supplies technical support for some of the Apache Software Foundation code that works best with Spring, such as the Apache Web Server and Apache Tomcat.

Software companies continue to consolidate, but this time, it's one open source company buying another.

SpringSource, the supplier of the Spring Framework for Java development that has found its way inside many large enterprises, is buying Covalent Technologies. Covalent supplies technical support for some of the Apache Software Foundation code that works best with Spring, the Apache Web Server and Apache Tomcat, a lightweight application server.

SpringSource is buying Covalent for an undisclosed amount; the deal includes giving Spring stock to Covalent staffers. Both firms are privately held and declined to disclose the terms of the deal. Covalent was founded in 1998 and initially received venture capital backing, but bought out its backers in 2004, according to Raven Zachary, analyst with the 451 Group.

Covalent combined the Apache Web server and Tomcat, plus additional open source modules, into the Covalent Enterprise Ready Server. It supplied consulting and technical support for its installation inside large companies. Covalent includes many open source contributors and project leaders. Jim Jagielski, CTO, helped build the original Apache Web server and is a core contributor to Tomcat, said Zachary. He also has contributed to Perl, PHP, the Gnu tools, and FreeBSD. But Covalent as a company never established an ongoing, branded product line in the manner of JBoss, Red Hat or MySQL.

"We want to be the leading Java open source company," said Rod Johnson, CEO of SpringSource and original author of Spring. With the addition of Covalent, SpringSource will broaden its ability to support its development platform to much of the open source code that applications produced by it must connect to.

"We want to support the open source software that people want to use," including the Geronimo application server, the Axis Web Services Framework from Apache, and the Apache Roller Blog multi-user blogging software.

Johnson acknowledged an exchange of Spring stock accompanied the deal. "We want to retain the people who have built Covalent," he said, and will do so by giving them an ownership stake in Spring.

CEO Mark Brewer said Covalent also has expertise in PHP and Perl that will be valuable in expanding the Spring product line. "We will be taking parts of Apache software and putting it into Spring. We will be producing a bundled product that adds further to the value of Spring Framework," he said.

In effect, Spring is now starting with the developer's application and building out the middleware needed to support it, and may one day produce the equivalent of the LAMP stack or Red Hat's JBoss middleware. JBoss produced the first Java middleware bundle, building out a Java integrated software bundle from the Linux operating system. As the JBoss and Spring gain strength and add to their portfolio, they come closer and closer to competing head to head.

Several Apache Software Foundation projects, such as Geronimo, grew out of a desire to match or compete with JBoss.

"SpringSource is one of a very small handful of companies that has the JBoss magic -- a respected founder and skilled developers. This acquisition is significant" in adding muscle to an already strong, open source contender, said Zachary.

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