LAMP and J2EE competition heating up

As vendors focus on the LAMP stack of open source software, JBoss hopes simplified J2EE development will keep users on its side of the aisle. But could IBM spoil their fun?

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Two camps of developers are matching the stifling summer temperatures as the race to provide the most widely accepted "open" development model heats up.

IBM was in the Java camp very early on, and publicly embraced Linux while others continued to dismiss it as tinker toy technology.
Jim Balderston,
senior analystSageza Group

On one front there is Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) model, supported by JBoss and its core base of users as the de facto standard in Java development. Last week the open source vendor introduced an implementation of Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) 3.0 across a portfolio of its products as part of a move to simplify Java development. The suite includes new versions of JBoss Application Server 4, Hibernate 3 and JBoss Eclipse IDE with EJB 3.0 support.

On the other front is the Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl/Python (LAMP) stack of open source software, which has been billed by analysts as a less expensive and less complex development opportunity than J2EE and Microsoft's .NET offerings. Over the course of 2005, LAMP has made headway with vendors like IBM and Sun, thus adding clout to a growing following in the open source community.

LAMP recently made additional progress when ActiveGrid, a San Francisco-based commercial open source vendor, announced that it signed a partnership with vendors who specialized in each area of the LAMP landscape.

ActiveGrid, with its flagship product in the Grid Application Server, a next-generation enterprise development and deployment platform, inked out partnerships with MySQL, Apache management provider Covalent, Novell, and PHP toolmaker Zend Technologies.

With the new partnerships under its belt, ActiveGrid has promised to give away a low-end version of its applications software server and sell a feature-rich version for large enterprise-level environments.

Such an enterprise-level play would counter plans from JBoss, whose director of product management Pierre Fricke said that a series of announcements from his company regarding Enterprise JavaBeans 3 (EJB3), JBoss Applications Server 4 and Java Portals 2.0 (released June 20) would create competition in that market space.

"J2EE has fallen short historically, in that it is a complex program model with lots of programming labor, especially with Enterprise JavaBeans," Fricke said. "It is sort of a sore point with J2EE programming … a simple model will be very competitive with .NET and XML."

"Developers are going to be able to use Meta data to add EJB characteristics to clusters, security – whatever -- to plain old JavaBeans. They'll get the basic JavaBeans program model, but will now be able to leverage enterprise JavaBeans," Fricke added.

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But LAMP supporters already believe their software offers a much less expensive and less complex development opportunity that J2EE or even .NET can deliver, said Jim Balderston, a senior analyst with the Sageza Group.

"Given the open source nature of LAMP, the less expensive claim seems to have merit, [while] the less complex claim will be borne out with time and actual development of operating environments," Balderston said. "Given the track record of open source development to date, however, we suspect that LAMP will continue to make inroads into corporate environments as a more lean way to meet IT needs."

Balderston attributed his analysis to the fact that there are several "very large IT vendors" who have been keeping a close eye on LAMP developments. Some, he said, like IBM, believe there will be substantial opportunities in the arena in the future.

Other companies, such as Sun and Microsoft, may be keeping an eye on LAMP development for very different reasons, Balderston continued, but he was "willing to put chips on the Big Blue square of the betting table," given IBM's past track record in getting out in front of emerging technologies and embracing them whole-heartedly well before the market at large.

"IBM was in the Java camp very early on, and publicly embraced Linux while others continued to dismiss it as tinker toy technology," Balderston said. "Certainly IBM's support of such technologies gives their chances of survival and acceptance a boost, but we see IBM shrewdly picking the winners and going with them."

"Given the company's interest in LAMP, and the unmitigated success of open source Linux, we believe LAMP is going to shine very brightly in the coming years," he added.

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