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Disruption 2005: Open source invades SOA

Eclipse continued to grow in importance while vendors like JBoss, IBM, Sun, BEA and Oracle deepened their open source ties. Some speculate the open source movement has fundamentally changed the way software gets built and consumed.

Of all the things 2005 produced in terms of SOA, rampant innovation was chief among them.

The predictable, staid world of the software product release/adoption arc got torn asunder by the open source movement. The market got flooded with good tools, and by year's end vendors were scrambling to launch open source projects and leverage high-profile open source tools as part of their commercial offerings.

The Eclipse Foundation has been a darling inside the open source community and back in February Eclipse executive director Mike Milinkovich insisted it was incumbent upon the open source movement to make integration a truly vendor-neutral arena.

In June, as a Forrester Research Inc. report found Eclipse experiencing rapid growth, Milinkovich talked about how the marketplace was seeing the emergence of two tools ecosystems, one from Microsoft and the other from Eclipse.

As the year progressed, Eclipse added a Web tools project and an SOA project.

In October, IBM donated the Rational Unified Process software development kit to Eclipse, putting more than 300,000 lines of code in the foundation's hands. And vendors knocked themselves over trying to synch up their offerings with Eclipse. For example, Cape Clear Software Inc. fully integrated its enterprise service bus with Eclipse figuring that Eclipse would bring complementary new tools to market far faster than Cape Clear could ever hope to develop them, leaving the company to focus on its core product.

According to Dana Gardner, an analyst with Interarbor Solutions LLC, open source is changing behavior on the user end as well.

"The notion of a fully baked product is becoming obsolete," he said. "People are becoming accustomed to having things come as a stream of features, allowing them to perform smaller implementations. It makes new features easier to consume."

Gardner noted that gradual adoption doesn't require the massive amounts of training traditionally associated with software upgrades and that users don't have to wait years to get the new tools they desire all wrapped up in a bundle.

"It became safe to think differently," he said.

Vendors race into open source

JBoss Inc., which had already staked out the professional open source market, made the creation of an SOA platform its focus in 2005. Along the way it upgraded its portal offering and added the Drools business rules engine to it business process management product to facilitate SOA information collection.

For anyone who doubted that there was a market for a fully integrated open source stack, it turned out that's exactly what users want.

Burton Group Inc. vice president and research director Anne Thomas Manes said while many have focused on price as the driver for the open source market, the features being free and all, they've missed the actual reason for the drive toward open source.

"The reason that companies want to do open source is not to save money because open source won't save you any money," she said. "You still have to pay for support. It's about freedom. It gives them the ability to make changes and not get stuck with a given vendor."

Though she cautioned that open source does not offer turnkey solutions as of yet.

"If you want to use open source, you need to be a pretty sophisticated IT organization," she said.

IBM sought to challenge JBoss on its own turf with the acquisition of Gluecode Software Inc., which built software and services around the Apache Geronimo project. Later in the year, IBM announced the creation of its first open source offering, the WebSphere Community Edition application server.

No vendor embraced the advent of open source software quite like Sun Microsystems Inc. Critics argued that Sun had to give away its software because it had never been that well regarded or able to gain much market share, but Sun planted its open source flag during the JavaOne conference in June and then opened up its entire software stack in November.

JavaOne in fact turned into an open source evangelical event with Oracle Corp. taking a key role in Enterprise JavaBeans and Java Enterprise Edition 5 development while BEA Systems Inc. professed its love for open source frameworks.

For more information

JBoss adds the Arjuna transaction engine

Eclipse rolls out Web Tools Platform 1.0

BEA had already developed the Apache Beehive ease-of-use application development framework and later in the year it would acquire M7 Corp. to gain an integrated development environment for open source frameworks.

Open source databases also got tied up with SOA in 2005. IBM and Zend Technologies Ltd. jointly developed an integrated database with native Web services support. Sun even plopped the open source PostGresSQL database into its Solaris operating system, with the aim that it become better able to function in a plug-and-play world.

And middleware went open source as multiple entities raced to create an open source enterprise service bus.

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