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SpringSource Takes Apache Tomcat Commercial

Apache Tomcat is a popular open source Java application server and serves as the basis for a number of commercial servers. Yet Tomcat itself is not a commercial project -- though now it does have a commercial version, courtesy of enterprise Java vendor SpringSource.

SpringSource this week began offering its Tomcat-based tc Server, including enterprise support and scalability enhancements that are not available in the open source version of Tomcat.

The new release from SpringSource comes as the Java application server business is poised for consolidation as Oracle, with its BEA Weblogic middleware business, swallows Sun and its Glassfish application server.

"I think it's going to be an important platform for people that want a lightweight development platform, for not just for Spring application but for general Tomcat applications," Peter Cooper-Ellis, senior vice president of engineering and product management at SpringSource, told InternetNews.com. "We've seen interest from two types of groups for this: those that are moving up from the Tomcat community and those that are moving down from Oracle WebLogic or IBM's WebSphere."

SpringSource is perhaps best known as the vendor behind the Spring Java framework for Java applications. The Spring framework, however, is not part of the tc Server release. In fact, Cooper-Ellis noted that SpringSource is now working some deployment capabilities to enable Spring applications to be more easily deployed on the tc Server.

Cooper-Ellis explained that tc Server is basically open source Apache with some added distributed management and diagnostics features for scaling up enterprise deployments.

But tc Server itself is not open source, and is only available under a commercial license from SpringSource. Cooper-Ellis noted that SpringSource developers are active committers to the Apache Tomcat project and contribute their efforts to the core server development. However, when it comes to the management and diagnostic features, those are items that held back from being contributed into open source.

"We want tc Server to be very closely aligned with open source Tomcat, because that's where we think the value is," Cooper-Ellis said. "What's unique about this project is that it is Tomcat -- it just adds the operational stuff that was missing on top."

Tomcat vs. other Java middleware

Cooper-Ellis argued that Tomcat and tc Server are different than traditional Java middleware like WebLogic and Websphere as well as open source app servers -- from at least one key perspective.

"Those all implement the full JavaEE stack," Cooper-Ellis said. "Tc Server really implements a subset. It's just for people building Web apps."

He added that many developer don't really need a full JavaEE stack, since they end up just doing web applications and don't need EJB [Enterprise JavaBeans] and the other more complex features of JavaEE.

"Frankly, developers get frustrated because the footprint for a JavaEE appserver is substantial," Cooper-Ellis said. "A key focus for us is to retain a very lightweight developer experience."

Update corrects spelling of Cooper-Ellis's name.