Two new initiatives, one undertaken by the application server industry itself, and one conducted in Australia by the CSIRO, are attempting to answer the question: which is the best app server?
The J2EE (Java Enterprise Edition) application server is one of the few software products to weather the economic downturn, and its expense has often led many in the industry to question which products actually perform to vendor promises and which are the most cost-effective.
A report published by the CSIRO's Software Architectures and Component Technologies Group, decided to rate the app servers of IBM, Fujitsu, SilverStream, BEA, Borland and the open-source JBoss product, to come up with ways of advising IT professionals on purchasing decisions.
While the report suggests that no application server can fit the needs of every organisation, it provides an interesting viewpoint on which products lead the market in terms of performance and scalability. For lower-scale deployments, the open-source JBoss product and the app servers of Interstage and SilverStream provide good performance. But for those willing to fork out the many tens of thousands of dollars for a highly scalable solution, IBM's WebSphere, BEA's WebLogic and Borland's application servers rate much higher.
Interestingly, the two clear market leaders (IBM and BEA) were shown to produce the most scalable application servers, but the Borland product rated highest for performance. This was despite claims from Borland chief architect Michael Rozlog that the two market leaders sell their products at almost twice the price of the Borland product.
Rozlog was visiting Melbourne to discuss another initiative taking place in the US in which the dominant J2EE application server vendors are submitting standard compliance testing results to an industry organisation named EC PERF.
EC PERF, managed by Sun Microsystems' Java Community Process and represented by all the J2EE-compliant vendors, aims to give some clarity as to which application servers perform under what conditions.
Borland is also releasing an EC PERF test kit to its customers to do apples-for-apples comparisons when choosing an application server.
Rozlog said EC PERF is a standalone entity from Sun Microsystems, which also markets an application server under its iPlanet joint venture. "EC PERF sees iPlanet as just another app server vendor," he said. "They don't seem to get any special treatment."