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CommunityOne Red Hat has opened Sun Microsystems' annual week of Java activities with an application server strategy targeting fellow open-sourcer SpringSource.

The company, which made its name in the Linux business, has added a third server to its JBoss application server and middleware family targeting what it called "mid-sized" workloads.

JBoss Enterprise Web Platform slots between Red Hat's existing JBoss Enterprise Application Platform and the Enterprise Web Server, while retaining the enterprise-edition's clustering, caching, persistence, and security the company said Monday.

Red Hat's also committed to support "alternative" programming models, APIs and languages in the JBoss family. As such Red Hat also announced the JBoss Web Framework Kit to support customers using these technologies - frameworks initially supported are Google Web Toolkit, RichFaces, Struts, and Spring.

All very generous, Red Hat, but what's the connection here? Especially, given Red Hat Application Server 5.0 - the basis of Monday's news - has already been released?

That connection is Spring - both the framework and its chief sponsor SpringSource. The company has launched is own application servers based on the poplar Spring Framework and OSGi as modular alternatives to Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) containers and SpringSource support.

That puts SpringSource in direct competition with JBoss, and Red Hat is hoping it can not only give developers a transition from web server to full Red Hat application server by way of JBoss Enterprise Web Platform, but that it can retain their interest through commitment to support for new and popular languages, frameworks, standards, and technologies. In offering to support the Spring Framework, Red Hat hopes to take support business from SpringSource.

JBoss' chief technical officer Mark Little and vice president of middleware Craig Muzilla tried to pigeon hole frameworks as lacking enterprise capabilities out of the box while saying the Red Hat application server 5.0 provides the scalability, security, and reliability needed.

Little said: "Frameworks out of the box don't provide enterprise capabilities... but they do provide the hooks. Where do you get the components from? The Most natural place in the enterprise market is the application server - you pull in something like WebLogic or WebSphere. Those application servers are typically monolithic so you get everything or nothing - if you want to plug in security and transaction with WebLogic you get WebShere [the] management infrastructure."

Sun, meanwhile, used its CommunityOne conference to talk up its own application server - Glassfish. The goal for the future is to expand functionality and achieve commercial adoption. All future versions will be based on the current version 3.0, Sun distinguished engineer Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart said during a presentation.

Pelegri-Llopart highlighted SailFin, a project outside the core application server for telecoms, which mixes session initiation protocol (SIP) Servlets and Java EE services. He also highlighted Hudson, a project for an extensible continuous integration engine. He added there's a move to make current GlassFish enterprise service bus "lighter" and move away from the widely used BPEL that vendors spent years hammering out.

Sun is expected to demonstrate these and officially announce that version 2.0 of SailFin is ready for testing on day one of JavaOne, Tuesday. There's no date for SailFin 3.0.

The big catch in all of this is whether GlassFish is given time to hit these goals, as Oracle is in the process of buying Sun and will evaluate all products and product teams very closely. The database giant, which already enjoys a sizable application server and middleware stack thanks to its $8.5bn BEA Systems acquisition, will chop where there's duplication or products and people are not wanted.

Pelegri-Llopart claimed "significant" overlap between GlassFish and "low-end" usage of WebLogic. "The high end of WebLogic Server had features we don't have," Pelegri-Llopart said.

Comparing GlassFish to JBoss, he said GlassFish had enjoyed "very, very good, strong adoption" although it lagged JBoss, IBM's WebSphere, and Oracle's WebLogic in absolute number of transactions. He claimed 250,000 registered downloads and 60 projects in total. He also said 120 contributors to GlassFish are not Sun employees, but didn't give total number of participants. ®

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