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Top 10 Open-Source Software Stories Of 2007

Yes, there were lawsuits. But there were also important advances in GPL, Apache, Web services, and Java, which made commercial software suppliers more worried than ever.

OpenVista is an electronic health care and patient-tracking system pioneered inside the federal Veterans Administration hospital system. "How is any open source developer going to have a shred of confidence to work on this?" Steve Shreeve asked in the midst of the blow up.

In October, Medsphere announced a new CEO, Michael Doyle, and a few days later Doyle announced that the dispute with the Shreeves had been settled. By the end of October, Medsphere was back to posting code for open source project use, this time with the board's permission. But the Medsphere dispute seemed to say that under some circumstances, the trust ingredient can go wildly wrong.

8. Apache Tomcat Takes The Lead.

IBM's WebSphere, BEA Systems WebLogic, and Oracle Application Server are the big three in Java application servers, but there's a piece of open source code that appears to be overshadowing them all. No, it's not JBoss, although JBoss comes in number 2 when measured by the number of units adopted by developers, in between WebSphere in the lead and BEA as number 3. But the Apache Tomcat application server has WebSphere beat; it's one of the hidden success stories of open source code that came into its own in 2007.

Tomcat is, in effect, a Java specialist; the other application servers are more generalists. WebSphere, WebLogic, and OAS can handle application processes written in non-Java languages; Tomcat is a high-speed, lightweight Java Servlet engine. It takes the server command modules and excels at executing them, making it an ideal test bed for Java application developers.

Combine that with the fact that WebSphere, WebLogic, and JBoss will support Tomcat in their own operations, and you have a developer platform that pairs up well with the commercial products when it comes time to deploy applications.

But mainly, it's another sign of the desire for lighter weight, simpler methods in Java application development.

Few surveys of Java middleware see Tomcat because it's a project of the Apache Software Foundation and no one is selling it as a commercial product. But BZ Research's Java survey of December 2006 indicated that Tomcat was being used by 64.3% of those surveyed. WebSphere was being used by 36.9%; JBoss, 32%; WebLogic, 23.7%; and Oracle, 22.4%.

7. Spring Takes Hold.

Java has grown from just another C-type object-oriented language into an expansive platform. In addition to its own virtual machine, it has a huge set of APIs and complex relationships between its Enterprise Java Beans and other parts of the platform.

Rod Johnson is the author of a radically different approach to Java, the Spring Framework.

The Spring Framework dispenses with complex Java 2 Enterprise Edition Enterprise Java Beans and sticks to simple Java objects. It presents a visual environment in which a developer can declare the Web services, the database connections, and the network interfaces that he wants and get them supplied by the framework's underlying plumbing. Johnson insists that more work will get done in Java if Java stays simple.

And he's just about revolutionized Java development, switching it back in the direction of simpler, lighter programming than Sun Microsystems' James Gosling and other Java developers were inclined to go. "Spring is the death of Java 2 Enterprise Edition," says longtime Java observer Miko Matsumura, deputy CTO of Software AG.

To Johnson, all the intricate programming steps of Java 2 Enterprise Edition had become an impediment to getting work done. He is CEO of the company he formed to support SpringSource, formerly Interface21. He's also the author of a book that's had a huge influence on streamlining Java to keep it accessible to mere mortals: J2EE Design and Development, part of Wrox's Expert One on One series.

Many enterprises have adopted Spring for application development and Oracle supports using Spring for doing the heavy lifting of creating Java database applications alongside its own JDeveloper toolset.

Spring has a thriving community around it and Johnson's Interface21 has a thriving Spring Framework installation and support business. This is not only a successful open source project. It is an ongoing influence on what level developers prefer to work at and what they are expected to do. After mastering Java, Spring became a neutral platform by supporting development in Microsoft's .Net as well.

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