David Chappell


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Does Open Source J2EE Matter?  
# Thursday, September 23, 2004
I've gotten some interesting comments from readers of my latest column in Application Development Trends. The major complaint is that I didn't give enough weight to the role that open source J2EE technologies like Tomcat and JBoss play in this market, describing it instead as controlled by IBM and BEA. A couple of thoughts on this:

  • My perspective is very focused on enterprises, the people who control the large majority of IT spending. In this world, there's some use of open source J2EE technologies, but it's a definite minority. There are vastly more applications running on WebSphere and WebLogic, and so viewing this market as dominated by these two is accurate.

  • The use of open source J2EE seems likely to grow, especially once IBM fully embraces it (as they might well do). Still, enterprise IT managers and architects, the people who make most important platform decisions, are tremendously risk averse. Just having equivalent open source technology isn't sufficient; solid support and a secure future are also required. Giving up these things to save a bit of money on software doesn't make sense to most of them, and so I'm not expecting a spike in open source J2EE adoption anytime soon.

In most of my interactions with open source advocates, including this one, the arguments I hear tend to be rooted in a purely technical view of the world. This probably reflects the strong technical orientation (they're developers) and relative lack of experience (they're young) of the traditional open source fan. It's not surprising that they don't understand how enterprise IT decisions are made, since they've not usually been involved in making them. From a purely technical perspective, open source J2EE looks pretty good. To a typical enterprise decision maker, however, WebSphere and WebLogic are still better options.

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