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Oracle sees future in Sun's GlassFish

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Oracle's drip feed of promises on Sun Microsystems' software has now extended to middleware, open-source, and tools.

The database giant has said it will continue Sun's investment in the company's open-source Java application server.

"Oracle plans to invest in aligning common infrastructure components and innovations from Oracle WebLogic Server and Glassfish Enterprise server to benefit both Oracle WebLogic Server and GlassFish Enterprise customers," the company's said in a PDF here.

As is Oracle's way, it did not provide further details. The roll-call of promises updates the earlier revision that saw Oracle pledge to continue investing in the open-source MySQL database.

One former BEA Systems executive who stewarded WebLogic development before Oracle's acquisition told The Reg Thursday that there's certainly potential for "alignment" between WebLogic and GlassFish. He pointed to a common management and security framework as one opportunity.

Peter Cooper-Ellis, former executive vice president of engineering at BEA, said integration could also be made potentially easier if Oracle stuck to its recently stated plan to make WebLogic modular using the OSGi specification and framework. If this was applied to GlassFish too, then the application servers could - theoretically - share modules.

Just because WebLogic and GlassFish use Java 2 Enterprise Edition (Java EE) doesn't make a common infrastructure easy because of the different way the specification has been implemented in the Oracle and BEA containers.

Cooper-Ellis, now vice president of engineering at the SpringSource division of VMware, said GlassFish would probably gain the most from a features perspective, as WebLogic was such a fully featured application server. Since the deal, Oracle has taken WebLogic further with the addition of support for Coherehce for data management and caching services in clustered environments.

He also sounded a note of caution: While Oracle has promised continued investment - as it has on MySQL - the proof will be in the money, man hours, and breadth of support the giant pours in.

"The question is if they [Oracle] invest in GlassFish or pay lip service and don't really invest that much," Cooper-Ellis said.

Few expected Oracle would keep GlassFish alive. By keeping it going, though, Oracle can potentially offer developers and end-users a free, open-source alternative to Red Hat's JBoss.

Of course, the catch is Oracle customers might also want to pick the free GlassFish instead of paying Oracles tens of thousands of dollars per CPU for WebLogic.

Cooper-Ellis said if that's the case, at least Oracle would still retain the customer in name as they'd have stayed with Oracle over, say, JBoss and Red Hat.

"If you have that migration you want to control it," he said. "If they lose a deal, first thing they will do is try to cut cost rather than lose a customer, and then say: 'If you want an open source application server, go GlassFish'."

Another questionable tool in Sun's toolbox is OpenOffice. Oracle's chief executive Larry Ellison at JavaOne this year indicated he'd like to see OpenOffice continue, by adding support for Sun's closed Java interface language JavaFX.

Now, Oracle's gone further saying it will continue to develop and support OpenOffice as an open-source project once the deal closes. Oracle will provide charged support for "larger customers" who "ask for extra assurances, support, and enterprise tools."

As part of the same statement on Sun's software, meanwhile, Oracle has also committed to Sun's NetBeans development environment. Oracle years back slapped down Sun for saying Oracle was supporting NetBeans, when Oracle had its own development framework and was working in Eclipse.

Now, it seems NetBeans has a life inside Oracle as a development platform for JavaFX, which Ellison has committed to.

Backing what The Reg wrote, Oracle said while its JDeveloper remains its strategic development tools for Fusion middleware and enterprise applications, NetBeans: "Is expected to provide an additional open source option and complement to the two free tools Oracle already offers for enterprise Java development: Oracle JDeveloper and Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse." ®

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