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IBM says that its open source WebSphere Java application server is grabbing support from developers faster than any of its rivals.

In a survey of Eclipse developers by US research firm Evans Data, 16 per cent said they used IBM's WebSphere Application Server Community Edition to deploy their apps, up from almost nothing a year ago.

"Eclipse developers are a subset, but an interesting subset," claimed Adam Jollans, IBM's open source strategy manager.

He said that WAS CE, which is based on Apache Geronimo, competes on the open source side not only with Geronimo itself, but with other J2EE software such as JBoss. It also plays against commercial software, including IBM's original WebSphere app server and BEA WebLogic.

"We see an emerging opportunity for people who want open source application servers - often that's small and medium businesses. It's a 'light functionality' option," Jollans said. He added that IBM aims to generate revenue from WAS CE by selling support contracts, as it does for Linux.

WAS Community Edition is based on software which IBM acquired by buying Gluecode Software last year. Free to download and use, it takes the Apache software and adds components, such as web services, security, authentication, messaging and web tier clustering.

Jollans acknowledged that the commercial and community editions of WAS are not as similar as their names might suggest.

"They are different code bases - but they both implement J2EE," he said. "We have added resources to the programming skills we got from Gluecode, and are making it easy for people to move apps between the two."

He added that IBM is involved with a number of other open source projects, including Eclipse, which it uses as the basis of its own Rational development tool, the Aperi storage management project, the Apache Derby data server which underlies IBM Cloudscape, and Linux itself.

"The industry is moving towards a mixed model, with open source frameworks, and commercial tools built on top," he said. ®

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