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Open Sourcing on The Grid

Startup open source development vendor ActiveGrid released early versions of its grid computing development tool and application server, officials Monday.

ActiveGrid Application Builder and ActiveGrid Application Server are based on the Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Python/Perl (LAMP) software stack, an alternative to J2EE and Microsoft .NET .

The software, officials said, combines XML , open source software and grid computing to create a low-cost environment that allows companies and organizations to rapidly deploy composite applications in a distributed networking environment.

Officials point to the inherent strengths of the LAMP platform using Application Builder over alternatives like .NET or J2EE. There is no vendor lock-in, and with the built-in Web server (Apache) and database (MySQL), developers can have an application up and running in minutes.

The tool, which runs on Windows, Linux and Macintosh operating systems, separates the development process from deployment. This allows developers to concentrate on building a composite enterprise application that draws the functionality from other vendor products without tying them to using a particular deployment architecture.

To do so, Application Builder relies on XML standards to connect it to a back-end resource like a database. It adheres to several XML standards: XML Schema, XPath, BPEL and XForms.

ActiveGrid Application Server is an Apache module that scales up to 1,024 nodes on the network. It also departs from the three-tiered architecture of presentation, application and data access layers by interpreting applications at run time and using various deployment and data-caching methods.

Peter Yared, ActiveGrid founder and CEO, as well as a former Sun Microsystems application server division CTO, said the intent of the software was to come up with an application that a developer could get running without a lot of hassle or months of training on other development platforms.

"We want to go back to the days where people could get a kid out of school, send them to a week-long training class and give them to [human resources] and then they can build the apps," he said. "And those days are long gone."

Until companies start using the ActiveGrid products, it is hard to determine whether they will be successful, said Mike Gilpin, a research director at Forrester Research. Application Builder and Application Server are interesting value-adds for organizations on the LAMP platform looking to move to grid capability to handle more transactions.

Gilpin said there are more proven technologies on the market today for companies that have predictable traffic patterns at their Web sites. But for sites with no discernible traffic pattern, ActiveGrid's dynamic caching is well-suited to the task.

"One of the things that they've done is implemented a distributed data caching ability," he said. "The amount of data that needs to be pushed out to different parts of the network is considerable; this has the capability to push the content distribution network using edge-side includes to push the information out to the server on the network closest to the user."

The early release versions of the software are available under the Apache Software License 2.0 with version 1 due later this year. A commercial version of Application Server with a commercial license catering to the enterprise data center is due out in the second half of 2005.