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GlassFish: Too Little, Too Late?

Posted by schaefa on July 5, 2005 at 2:03 PM PDT

After the magical dust of JavaOne has settled the reality is reappearing and we can start thinking about the results. Especially Sun's announcement (beside buying my current employer) of open-sourcing their application server was a hot topic here even though I did not quite trust all the fuss around it. Now over the long weekend I had time to figure out what happened and the result, quite frankly, is disillusioned and I get the feeling that this was just the last phase of this application's life cycle.

First I want to make clear that what Sun open-sourced is the code base of the 1.4 reference implementation one can already get for free. This means that the Enterprise Edition is still closed-source and with it the advanced features like clustering. On the other hand JBoss is a 1.4 certified application server with all these features and so I think that open-sourcing the RI is just not enough (too little). In order for GlassFish to be a successful open-source project it needs a good and broad developer and user community but I am very skeptical that they can accomplish that. Yes, Sun has successful open-source projects like NetBeans and OpenOffice but they did not have to compete with another well known open-source project when they started. This time they have to "fight" against JBoss and Apache's Geronimo project making it very difficult to build a community around it especially when the project is lacking some key features and so this step is maybe taken too late.

I am not saying that this project is going to fail because it is the RI and so it must be done one way or the other and Sun has the brain power and resources to keep it afloat but that does not guarantee that it becomes an exciting and vibrant open-source project. It may end up as a project on "life support". Maybe it would more sense to make JBoss or Geronimo the RI so that Sun can focus on the Enterprise Edition or maybe not. If someone would ask me, but who cares, I would rather work on JBoss again but that will also only happened after some bottles of Fleury with a good vintage.

At the end only time will tell which project will succeed and what fails. I am already surprised that Geronimo is still an active project passing the CTK 1.4.1a just recently.

Have fun

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