Novell earlier this month bundled the open-source, J2EE-compliant JBoss Application Server with its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, giving application developers a built-in deployment option.
Novell's SUSE Linux-JBoss offering includes a software development kit with documentation and tools that aim to make developers more productive. Technical support is being provided by Novell with backing from JBoss, which announced last month that its open-source application server passed Sun Microsystems' compatibility test suite for Java 2 Enterprise Edition 1.4.
JBoss CEO Marc Fleury said Java virtual machine (JVM) performance had been hampered on Linux due to limitations with the kernel threading model. But Novell's SUSE Enterprise Server 9 supports the 2.6 Linux kernel patches that fix the threading model, he said.
"That will lead to better performance and scalability for Java virtual machines, so now Linux can be a very serious enterprise-level choice when it comes to deployment platforms," Fleury said. "Novell is doing the right things to make SUSE Linux the best Linux platform to run Java. I certainly hope to see Red Hat step up with a 2.6 enterprise shipment of Linux."
Red Hat has incorporated some of the 2.6 kernel features into its current Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 release. Version 4, due early next year, will be built around the new kernel, Red Hat spokeswoman Leigh Day said.
At the recent LinuxWorld Conference in San Francisco, Novell also announced that the next major release of its exteNd application suite, due in late 2005, will be bundled with JBoss Application Server 4.x rather than the exteNd Application Server it acquired in 2002 from SilverStream Software Inc.
A maintenance release of exteNd will support the JBoss application server by year's end, according to Ashish Larivee, a director of product marketing at Novell.
Even though Novell will no longer ship new releases of its application server, it pledged to continue support for the product, as well as for IBM Corp.'s WebSphere, BEA Systems's WebLogic and Jakarta Tomcat.
"We have been looking at supporting open-source projects and products wherever it makes sense within our product portfolio, and an application server is pretty much a commoditized part of the platform," Larivee said. "We first investigated trying to open-source our application server, but because of licensing restrictions, we were unable to do so. The next option was to look at the most popular open-source application server, and JBoss was the clear choice."
Novell plans to provide a series of white papers and technical guides to help customers, but the company expects migration issues to be minimal since JBoss is J2EE-compliant.
"This is a good thing for both Novell and JBoss," said Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group. "It's a waste of time, effort and money for Novell to continue to invest in this commodity J2EE application server technology when there are freely available, high-quality app servers that they can embed for their product instead."
Also at LinuxWorld, Red Hat announced the availability of its lightweight application server, which is based on the open-source Jonas application server from the ObjectWeb Consortium. Red Hat said it plans to test the application server to ensure that it interoperates with J2EE platforms from BEA, IBM and Oracle.
Red Hat Application Server is tested and supported on all major commercial JVMs, including those from BEA, IBM and Sun, according to the company. Plans also call for it to be tested and certified with leading database management systems, including those from Oracle, IBM and Sybase Inc.
Tom Murphy, an analyst at Meta Group, predicted "a flurry of activity" around open-source application servers such as Red Hat, Novell's releases and others.
"Just like it took the formation of Red Hat to really get Linux going and then the backing of IBM to make corporations comfortable, we are seeing a similar era now for open-source middleware," he said.