Sun Expands GlassFish into Web Platform

Sun Microsystems last week announced a new bundle of open source projects assembled around the GlassFish application server to create a "high-performance Web platform."

The new GlassFish Portfolio combines the popular Java-based application server with a number of open source projects, including the Apache Tomcat servlet, the Ruby and PHP scripting languages, and the codebase from the Liferay Portal project.

"This is really an expansion of what we've had under the GlassFish brand for the past couple of years," said Kevin Schmidt, Sun's director of strategy for software infrastructure marketing. "It's gone beyond Java EE."

Along with the app server, this release of the portfolio comes with four integrated components, including the GlassFish Web Stack, which Schmidt describes as a complete LAMP without Linux. "We use the term ‘LAMP' because it's a defacto industry term, but we're not including Linux, or any operating system at all, in this specific offering," he said. The Web Stack is designed for developers looking for a light-weight Web solution, Schmidt said, and it's supported on a variety of OSes, including Solaris, Linux and Windows. The Web Stack includes Tomcat, Memcached, Squid and Lighttpd, and it supports PHP, Ruby and the Java Platform.

The portfolio also comes with a portal based on the Liferay Portal project. The GlassFish Web Space Server is designed to simplify the development of Web sites and collaborative work spaces, such as portals and social networking sites, Schmidt said.

This release also comes with the new GlassFish enterprise service bus (ESB). Another open source technology, the GlassFish ESB is a lightweight component aimed at "department-scale" and "enterprise SOA deployments that connect existing and new applications to deliver content and services to the Web," Sun said.

The one non-open-source piece of the portfolio is Sun's Enterprise Manager, which is an application for enterprise-scale management and monitoring of the GlassFish Portfolio. It comes with SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) support.

Sun is also offering a telecommunications add-on called the GlassFish Communications Server, which comes out of Sun's work on Project SailFin, which added a SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) Servlet technology extension to the GlassFish app server.

GlassFish Portfolio also integrates with the MySQL open source database, which Sun acquired last year. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based systems company is, in fact, offering the Portfolio on the same pricing model.

"Sun has been trying to remake the product availability, pricing, terms and conditions in the mold of MySQL," said Jonathan Eunice, founder of and principal IT advisor at Illuminata. "This is kind of a culmination of a couple of years of mapping to MySQL and bringing open source up as a production deployment vehicle."

The GlassFish Portfolio offering also underscores a trend in the open-source marketplace, said Forrester analyst John Rymer. "Sun's approach plays to a very important theme we see unfolding in the enterprise, which is ‘open source is cheaper,'" he said. "A lot of companies see the world that way now. Sun can come in with quality products at vastly lower costs, and I think they'll get a hearing in the enterprise."

"This isn't the first time Sun has pitched GlassFish as a place to deploy, but this is the clearest and most forward statement that GlassFish is a very deployable platform," said Eunice. "GlassFish is evolving into a brand for a multi-part stack. Some of the components -- the ESB for example -- have a lot of dependencies that really tied to an app server. But Ruby? PHP? Liferay Portal? These are things that are not historically connected to a Java app server. There's a Java app server in there, but it's has become more of a rallying point for your supportable open source stack."

"We've been talking about our investment and commitment to open source for a long time now," Schmidt said. "This is by no means the finish line, but it's another significant step down that road."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].