IBM Offers Support for Geronimo J2EE App Server

In an effort to capture share of the low-end, open-source Java application server market, IBM announced at the LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco today that it will provide support services for the open-source Apache Geronimo J2EE application server.

Called IBM Support for Apache Geronimo, the support services will be available in the third quarter of this year and will be provided on two levels: The entry level will consist of e-mail support, and the enhanced level will consist of e-mail and telephone support.

The system’s e-mail support system will have a 24-hour turnaround, and the telephone support will have a 12-hour response time. Both levels will support development and production. The offerings will be available only in the U.S. initially, and will be rolled out worldwide later this year. The pricing structure has not yet been announced.

Giving Back

IBM also said that it has contributed some of the software code known as Gluecode back to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) Geronimo project. The software, called the Gluecode Management Console, provides a graphical user interface to manage the server. The ASF has already accepted the console.

Earlier this year, IBM acquired Gluecode Software, an open-source software company that provided a user interface and other value adds to the Geronimo code. Gluecode offers support services for its products, as well as Gluecode SE (standard edition), which consists of the code and the Geronimo (application server) add-on. IBM continues to offer all of Gluecode’s products.

IBM’s latest support offering is intended to help bring new customers into the Linux fold, and to bring Big Blue a potentially lucrative source of revenue.

The lack of structured technical support for open source is often cited as a reason companies shy away from adopting open source, said Scott Cosby, IBM Gluecode transition executive.

“We have found that to be the biggest barrier to adoption with the customers we worked with,” Cosby told LinuxInsider. He pointed to a Forrester Research report that identifies lack of support as the number one concern for IT decisions makers who were considering open source. “It’s definitely a pain point for IT customers,” he said.

IBM is not the only company with a technical support offering in this space. Red Hat, MySQL and JBoss offer technical support, and there are companies such as SpikeSource that offer support for multiple open-source products, including Geronimo.

Distinguishing Characteristics

One thing that may distinguish IBM in this space is its good reputation for support and service, despite the company’s reputation that its offerings are pricey, said Stephen O’Grady, senior analyst at RedMonk. “It’s a very solid support option, and throw on top of that that a lot of these customers are already IBM customers and may in fact be running WebSphere in their shop,” he told LinuxInsider.

IBM is also hoping that introducing new customers to the low-end of a Java application server will ultimately move more customers into its high-end WebSphere application server.

WebSphere is a high-end Java application server that is more robust than Geronimo and is often used for large-scale Web applications. In contrast, Geronimo is a Java application server on a much smaller scale, which is more suited for departmental applications, scheduling systems, and basic Web presences. “It’s very suitable for enterprises or other organizations that want to take a Java approach but don’t want all the overhead that associated with higher-end commercial products, or the intricacies of enterprise Java beans or the more sophisticated J2EE features,” O’Grady said.

Whether IBM will be able to make a great deal of money by convincing entry-level players to upgrade to WebSphere remains to be seen. “[BEA Systems’] WebLogic and WebSphere have a lot of bells and whistles, but we’re finding increasingly there are a lot of customers who aren’t interested in those bells and whistles and aren’t going to be anytime soon,” O’Grady said.

However, there are a “fair number” of customers who will upgrade to WebSphere, O’Grady estimates — enough to be considered a volume market, he said. One type of potential customer might be someone wishing to start a Web service, for example, who finds they’re getting a lot more volume than anticipated. That person would need to upgrade to a more robust server, and the migration path from the Geronimo stack to WebSphere is a better fit than from a Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, Perl or Python (LAMP) stack, O’Grady said, because they’re both written in Java.

The ASF began developing Apache Geronimo in 2003. The name “Geronimo” stands for both the ASF project and the actual code. The Geronimo application server is managed through the project. Apache Geronimo is freely licensed under the open source ASF License and the Geronimo server is close to becoming J2EE-certified. In July the code passed a major hurdle, Sun Microsystems’ J2EE test compatibility kit 1.4.1.

Currently two open-source application servers exist that are J2EE certified: JBoss and ObjectWeb’s Java Open Application Server (JOnAS), which is distributed by Red Hat.

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