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'Apache Geronimo' Looks to J2EE Implementation

The non-profit Apache Software Foundation (ASF) has announced the incubation of a new project (tentatively codenamed 'Apache Geronimo') to develop an open source, Apache-licensed implementation of the J2EE specification.

The ASF, which maintains the widely deployed Apache HTTP Server Project, has issued a call for developers to join in the incubation of the Geronimo project. The project's source is available via CVS tools at the Apache Incubator and a special mailing list has been set up to push the discussion.

Open source developer Greg Stein, an Apache volunteer helping to kick-start the development of Geronimo, told internetnews.com the response to the project's launch has been "amazing." Just 24 hours after inviting participants, Stein said the Foundation received interest from about 60 individual developers.

"The response has been amazing. I had no idea so many people would want to come on board to help out," Stein said.

He said the development of a J2EE-compatible container would round out the Java software offered by the Apache Foundation. Apache has a slew of Java offerings but Stein said a J2EE compliant server was a "big one that is missing."

J2EE, or Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition, is a platform-independent, Java-centric environment created by Sun Microsystems . It is the de-facto standard for developing, building and deploying Web-based enterprise applications online. The J2EE spec consists of a set of services, APIs, and protocols that provide the functionality for developing multi-tiered, Web-based applications.

Big name companies like IBM, BEA, Borland, Oracle and Sybase all market implementations and Stein said the Apache Geronimo project would create a competing server product.

On a timeline for completion of Geronimo, Stein said a stable release version is at least a year away. "As with many open source projects, it'll be done when it's done. We are just now getting started. I couldn't see us achieving compliance until some time next year," he said.

An Apache J2EE implementation could potentially shake up the market for application servers, especially among large enterprises.

Sean Mitchell, a Canada-based freelance developer, is predicting the Geronimo project will find a niche in the financial community where large-scale enterprises are looking for alternatives to IBM and Microsoft .

"The financial services love Java and they love middleware. But they're tied to the big companies. This is potentially an alternative that gets them out of bed with the big companies," Mitchell said.

He said the Apache Foundation was a "logical" place to develop an open source application server because it comes with a solid reputation. "Apache isn't the most popular server because it's free. It's popular because it is solid so they have a reputation already," Mitchell added.

Stein described the project as an "ambitious goal" that presents a formidable challenge, given the wide range of technologies covered by the specification.

"The project is bringing together leading members of the Castor, JBoss, MX4J and OpenEJB communities. We would like to extend an open invitation to everyone involved in the J2EE space, both commercial entities and talented individuals, to join the community and build a world-class J2EE implementation," Stein said.

He said ASF's non-profit, charity status and its relationship with Sun provides ready-made access to the J2EE TCKs, which is the first step towards certification. "In addition, our flexible and unrestrictive licensing makes it possible for a wide variety of participants to assist in the development of Apache Geronimo, and to build their own solutions upon the platform," he added.