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VMware pushes Spring Java toward cloud virtualization with tc Server 2.0

It seems like you can’t throw a stone in an enterprise IT shop without hitting an Apache Tomcat server these days. Jeffrey Hammond at Forrester Research recently told me around 30% of developers use Tomcat based on findings from two surveys. In another survey from Replay Solutions, 50% of more than 1,000 Java EE users said they would deploy Tomcat app servers in 2010. In light of Tomcat’s popularity, it is interesting to look at where commercial open source implementations of the technology are headed.

This week, VMware made its Tomcat-based SpringSource tc Server 2.0 available for download. The release represents a continuing integration of SpringSource’s application development platform into VMware’s virtualization business, following its acquisition of SpringSource last year. As part of the release, the company introduced the tc Server Spring Edition, which is supported on VMware’s virtualization products.

Ovum analyst Tony Baer told me today that SpringSource/VMware integration is a work in progress. He pointed out VMware’s aggressive promotion for getting tc Server into its go-to-market channel. Until May 8 2010, any customer order fulfilled with vSphere, vCenter, View or ThinApp products will come with two free, perpetual, production-use tc Server licenses and 60 days of evaluation support.

“What’s most interesting is that VMware is ready to unleash its go-to-market channel on SpringSource,” said Baer. “The barometer of VMware’s success with SpringSource will be the degree to which it can ramp up the channel to go, in essence, higher up the software stack with tc Server.”

It was a bold move VMware made in acquiring SpringSource and thus expanding its business from operations alone to include application development. However well the cultures of these two companies blend, they have certainly carved out a niche in enterprise Java virtualization with the light-weight Spring Framework.

Spring is quite a bit leaner than the standard Java EE, which many say makes it better suited to virtual environments like private and public clouds. The lighter the application server instance, the more of them you can pack into one physical server. And indeed, VMware has been pushing Spring for private clouds more and more.

It seems that SpringSource is working also to capture as much of the mindshare around enterprise Tomcat as possible. Last month SpringSource launched, where it offers a library of Tomcat resources and hopes to build an active community. This site is less a forum and more a knowledge base where contributors can post tips, stories, presentations and questions for experts.

Whether or not VMware SpringSource ever becomes the go-to vendor for enterprise Tomcat app servers, the company sure is positioning itself to make an impact in the Java cloud platform space.

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