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In early days of my career, Sun Microsystems was the company we all looked towards. No other company innovated as much in hardware and then in software as Sun Microsystems did. In fact, Apache Tomcat started as a project at Sun. I would have guessed in the early 90s that Sun would buy Oracle – oh well, how times change.

Oracle has a daunting task ahead of integrating some amazing technologies they acquired from Sun Microsystems. Several important and critical technology pieces such as MySQL, NetBeans, and the whole Java community need careful attention. It is only natural then that some other products might not get an equal amount of TLC from Oracle executives.

Oracle unveiled their plans for several of Sun’s products, and it’s no surprise that GlassFish did not get as much attention as some of Sun’s core products. From Oracle’s FAQs, they state:

Oracle plans to continue evolving GlassFish Enterprise Server, delivering it as the open source reference implementation (RI) of the Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) specifications, and actively supporting the large GlassFish community. Additionally, Oracle plans to invest in aligning common infrastructure components and innovations from Oracle WebLogic Server and GlassFish Enterprise Server to benefit both Oracle WebLogic Server and GlassFish Enterprise Server customers.

The highlighted statement should raise alarm bells in the minds of GlassFish users. The reason several users chose GlassFish over WebLogic is because GlassFish was a less complex application server than WebLogic, which has become increasingly complex and even cumbersome to use. Aligning GlassFish with WebLogic? That sounds like taking a complex component and stuffing it into GlassFish, step one towards moving GlassFish customers onto WebLogic. While I like to believe that some of the GlassFish features would make it into WebLogic, I am doubtful. Having worked in big corporations for quite sometime, I do know this – the architectural and product decisions are heavily biased towards who is running the division, and as of now, no indications that GlassFish executives will be given charge of Oracle application server business. This makes business sense for Oracle, as they make more money selling complex solutions and convincing customers to buy expensive consulting and services on top of their complex solutions. And guess which division GlassFish is going to? To the same team that sells the ultra complicated, heavy weight Fusion middleware.

GlassFish users can expect to hear the following from Oracle sales guys in the near future:

“Well, you really should consider moving to WebLogic application server, as Fusion middleware is the future, not GlassFish”

“Its okay for you to use GlassFish on departmental servers, but you really should move away from putting any serious applications on GlassFish.”

So what are the real alternatives? If your primary goal is to be efficient, get outstanding ROI, and keep your runtime infrastructure, you should evaluate moving to Apache Tomcat immediately. Given that most web applications do not actually require full Java EE application server, you would also be cutting the weight of your runtime. You will find that this gives you  at a minimum, leverage to negotiate a better deal with Oracle. Here is a whitepaper that discusses migration from WebLogic to Tomcat, but the basic concepts apply to GlassFish users as well.

Innovation in Apache Tomcat continues with the latest release of 6.0.24 and upcoming 7.0 release. There is a large and growing community around Tomcat, wider adoption, and several companies that are standing behind Tomcat and provide worldclass support. Apache Tomcat means you have a choice of vendors, and thats a good thing.  Given the uncertainty around Oracle’s plans for GlassFish, there’s never been a better time to move to Tomcat.