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SpringSource flips JBoss Pizza giant

A slice of history

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Call it a testimony to the changing nature of workloads, evolving computing architectures, and the passing nature of your IT vendor.

Mid-2000s, the advice - as well as the headlines - was about how to migrate from a costly and closed-source Java application server such as BEA Systems' WebLogic Server to the open and free JBoss.

Today, JBoss is the one that pretenders to the enterprise crown are gunning for - in particular Rod Johnson's fellow open-sourcer SpringSource, which is boasting how it has flipped the world's largest Pizza Hut franchise to tc Server from Jboss for its business and web apps.

NPC International runs 1,156 restaurants in the US, and its servers dish out between 170 and 190 page views each day for its 3,000 employees on the kinds of applications that keep things running: HR, payroll, and invoicing. NPC has deployed 12 SpringSource tc Server instances on one server running its parent company's VMware's ESX on an AMD server with Ubuntu 9.10.

Jon Brisbin, NPC portal web master, told The Reg that he now plans to add more tc Server instances.

Brisbin's gone with SpringSource and VMware following a review that saw him dump the platform of choice he picked a few years back, based on where things seemed headed and based on what Red Hat has been doing with JBoss.

"I had chosen JBoss several years ago because it was predominant in the market and we need database connection pooling," Brisbin said. "I thought we'd start getting into the JMS messaging and it would be a good idea to use JBoss if we needed that function. We didn't go in that direction."

Also, according to Brisbin, the number of problems NPC had with JBoss seemed to go up as more users were added.

Brisbin said his JBoss application server used more CPU resources and would be more complicated to synchronize with other servers and systems in NPC's computing infrastructure. "I never attempted [installing the current web infrastructure on JBoss] because I wasn't going to take the risk of getting into it and finding it wouldn't work," he said.

"With tc Server, I only need two synchronization configuration files."

Spring's made much of its tc Server's modularity and small footprint using the OSGi framework. Around 2004, it was JBoss that was disrupting things against BEA - and IBM to an extent - with Aspect Oriented Programming in the application server. Programming was separated from business logic to make the development flexible. Using AOP was a radical departure from the stick-to-the-spec Java application servers from BEA and IBM, who wrapped a checklist of EJB features in a massive app server footprint and a huge stack of APIs to compile.

JBoss founder and former chairman and chief executive Marc Fleury told me at the time that AOP meant Java programming was enjoying a renaissance.

Since then, JBoss has been through a massive engineering overhaul under Red Hat, although it hesitated in going native with OSGi - still a relatively young technology. JBoss 5.0 was refactored and released in December 2008, with OSGi added rather than the application server being built on top. The idea was that if OSGi went out of fashion, JBoss wouldn't be left stranded.

It's the Spring approach, combined with VMware's virtualization, that seems to have won NPC, though.

"The direction Red Hat seems to be taking with JBoss is bigger and more legacy application server - that sounded too much like IBM to me and I already had problems keeping the thing configured," Brisbin said. "It seems like there's a lot of code on the application server and it will eat up lot of CPU resources.

"There was no way I would put that headache on myself."

How the times have changed. ®

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