JBoss fork spawns Apache project

A rift between the developers of the open source JBoss J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) application server has brought the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) into the J2EE game.

The ASF announced this week that it had begun work on a new J2EE server called Geronimo, which the foundation believes will be a more business-friendly alternative to the other open source J2EE servers currently available, according to Apache Software Foundation Chairman Greg Stein.

Companies such as IBM Corp. and BEA Systems Inc. sell commercial J2EE servers, but open source implementations of Sun’s J2EE specification are popular among developers looking for a low-cost alternative to IBM’s WebSphere and BEA’s WebLogic.

“What Geronimo is going to do is cherry pick a bunch of projects from around the ASF and then fill in a bunch of holes that J2EE requires,” said Stein. “Businesses are not afraid of the Apache license,” he added, “which means that businesses can participate.”

There are already two popular open source J2EE servers in circulation: JBoss and the Jonas server. But both have had difficulties in obtaining J2EE certification from Sun Microsystems Inc., and neither is available under an Apache-style software license, which is considered more conducive to commercial development. “There isn’t a certified server out there, and there certainly isn’t one that has a low restriction license like ours,” said Stein.

Geronimo will have an easier time obtaining J2EE certification than did its open source rivals, because the ASF’s non-profit status makes the application server a candidate for Sun scholarship, which would pay for certification, Stein said.

A certified version of Geronimo is expected in the next year.

The idea for Geronimo dates back to July, when developers who had splintered off from the JBoss Group, the company that maintains the JBoss server, approached the ASF board and asked if the non-profit foundation would sponsor development of a new application server.

The JBoss Group refugees, who had formed a company of their own called The Core Developer Network LLC, had first intended to incorporate Geronimo into JBoss, via a project called Elba. But when The JBoss Group cut off their access to the JBoss source code last weekend in the wake of the splintering action, they decided to take the JBoss code base and maintain their own version. “The original intent was for Elba to act as a bridge, but when everyone who was working on this had their access thrown out, Elba, at that point became a fork,” said Core Developer Partner Jeremy Boynes.

Elba eventually will be replaced by Geronimo, once the Apache project becomes mature, Boynes said.