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Ubuntu to get open-source Java heart implant

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OSCON: Exclusive Canonical has been in talks with Sun Microsystems and SpringSource to support one of their open source Java application server stacks in the Ubuntu core, to increase Ubuntu's enterprise adoption.

Canonical told The Reg that it is in the process of selecting which open source Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) framework to make available in the main part of its popular Linux distro. Sun's streamlined GlassFish 3.0 and the modular Application Platform are contenders.

Canonical's Ubuntu server engineering manager Rick Clark called it: "Very, very important to us to get a full Java stack out of the box."

It's unclear when a decision will be taken, but Canonical's Ubuntu server team said implementation is unlikely in Ubuntu 8.10, which is due in October. Users will have to content themselves with Apache's Tomcat 6.0, which Canonical said would meet 70 per cent of needs, by providing a serverlet container.

Those wanting full Java EE "will have to wait a little," Canonical's Ubuntu server manager Nick Barcet told us.

While no decision's yet been taken and Canonical was not giving anything away, The Reg was left with a sneaking suspicion Canonical will go for GlassFish.

Ubuntu's seeing massive uptake as part of a stack with Sun's MySQL database. Also, Sun has certified Ubuntu on Intel and Sparc systems from Sun and part of the Ubuntu 8.04 LTS - Hardy Heron - multiverse. There was a sense talks with SpringSource had wrapped up without result, although Application Platform was - by last count - still in beta.

Ubuntu's proving popular in one- and two-U rackable servers and blades running file, database, mail and web servers. Enterprise Java, though, would help Ubuntu power applications like online banking. Ultimately, Canonical wants big application providers SAP and Oracle to certify on Ubuntu.

Presently, you download your copy of Ubuntu and your Java application server from different locations. Also, there is no formal support for Java in the hand-selected list of components that comprise the main part of Ubuntu. Both facts make it harder for corporates to use Ubuntu in mission-critical, business applications.

"There's a separation between the distro and the Java," Clark said. "You install the Java that comes with [IBM's] WebSphere or [BEA/Oracle's] WebLogic. Wouldn't it be nice to supply one package that comes fully supported?"

Canonical is being deliberately choosy on the Java EE platform it supports. Canonical believes GlassFish 3.0 and Application Platform would be simpler to maintain than other open-source application servers, such as Apache's Geronimo.

The problem is most application servers pull in a very large number of packaged features as standard in the form of Jar files through Maven. This makes them swell in size, and they're difficult to maintain from the perspective of features and licensing. That's a problem for a distro like Ubuntu that owes its growth to ease of use and stability, and also a problem for the integrated Launchpad platform that's used to find, fix and report common bugs in Ubuntu and more than 6,000 open source projects.

GlassFish and SpringSource have been architected to pull in a relatively small number of Jar files: Glassfish 3.0 consumes up to 40 compared to Geronimo's 280. Application Platform combines the enterprise Java Spring Framework, Tomcat and OSGi specs to deliver a modular architecture with a smaller footprint than regular Java EE.®

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