Among major vendors, Sun Microsystems Inc., has dramatically improved its standing in this year's evaluation of applications servers for service-oriented architecture (SOA) and business process management (BPM) by Forrester Research Inc.
While not yet considered at the level of the stronger vendors including IBM and BEA Systems Inc. in the Forrester evaluation, Sun, with its acquisition of SeeBeyond, is moving up, according to the analyst firm's report.
"What a difference 18 months makes," writes John R. Rymer, the Forrester vice president who authored the recently published Forrester Wave report on the "Application Server Platforms" market. He noted that Sun trailed the field in Forrester's 2004 evaluation of application server platforms but emerged as a "strong performer" in this year's evaluation.
"Sun's platform grew substantially with its acquisition of SeeBeyond, and the company has spent about a year integrating those products with its Java Enterprise System (ES) modules," Rymer explained. "The SeeBeyond products, now called the Sun Java Composite Application Platform Suite (CAPS), provide very strong SOA, integration, and business process management (BPM) features relative to the competition."
In Forrester's evaluation, Sun's platform products are not yet at the level of the products from IBM and BEA, which have gone through "extreme battle testing." Forrester noted: "Sun is not yet a good choice for applications with extreme reliability, scalability, and complexity. Sun simply doesn't yet have the experience that IBM and BEA do with such requirements." Although the analyst firm did rate Sun Web server and directory server on a par with what IBM and BEA offer in those categories.
The improvement of its evaluation by Forrester was hailed by Sun as evidence of the success of its SOA platform strategy that includes not only the SeeBeyond acquisition, which provided much of the technology for JavaCAPS, but also the formation of its open source GlassFish Community.
"We faired very well because of the type of integration we've got between GlassFish, our open source app server, and the JavaCAPS product," said Rob Beauchamp, senior director product management, software infrastructure marketing at Sun.
While the Forrester report cautioned that "Sun is not yet a good choice for applications with extreme reliability, scalability, and complexity," Beauchamp said GlassFish provides a good starting platform for SOA and Web services projects.
"We realized that because the app server is the basis for Web services, in our latest release of GlassFish, we incorporated improvements around deploying Web services, making it easier for people to develop and deploy the tooling around Web services," Beuachamp said. "So people who are looking to create kind of a lightweight, early stage SOA deployment might look to GlassFish as the first step in that direction."
Sun's strategy is that the open source GlassFish provides the entry way into SOA, but as the implementation grows and matures, enterprises will then move to Sun's commercial JavaCAPS product.
Tracing Sun's view of how SOA evolves in an organization, Beauchamp said, "As they continue to evolve and learn more and they want to apply additional controls and governance around their Web services, they're looking to have a more comprehensive centralized repository for their Web services and a more comprehensive set of tooling. That's when they might transition from the basic GlassFish implementation to upgrading to a JavaCAPS implementation."
Beauchamp stressed that at the bits and bytes level there is no differentiation between its open source offering and its commercial product, a strategy designed to make the transition as painless as possible.
"Any of the artifacts with GlassFish are consumable directly by JavaCAPS," he said. "So there's no re-work that's required to take advantage of the existing artifacts."
While CIO and CTOs frequently cite the value of open source providing low cost software for SOA, Beuachamp noted that Sun and other vendors working with open source believe most enterprises will eventually want a commercially licensed product with vendor support backing it up. Assuming the move from open source to commercial is inevitable for most enterprise SOA projects, Sun has worked to smooth the transition, he added.
"That transition was reflected in the Forrester Report as making us a stronger contender than we have been in the past," he said.