While branded as such, IBM's latest open-source offering, WebSphere Application Server, Community Edition (CE) actually isn't WebSphere lite -- in fact, it's not based on the original WebSphere at all. Rather it's GlueCode's J2EE-compliant Geronimo server, which IBM acquired earlier in the year. In the wake of the acquisition, there has speculation that IBM would release an open-source app server as an entree into the small to medium size business market, and in response to the growing prevalence of open-source products such as JBOSS and JonAS.
However, IBM is saying these potential open-source competitors didn't weigh in as a factor in this announcement at all. I caught up with Scott Cosby, Gluecode Transition Executive for IBM WebSphere, who explained that WebSphere CE is intended to position IBM in an entirely new space -- sites that need to rapidly deploy a J2EE application very quickly, with little or no cost overhead. "For certain solutions and deployments, an open-source J2EE application server is 'good enough' for some customers and partners," he said. IBM will offer services and support around those deployments.
Many of these potential customers will be in small to medium businesses -- a market IBM has barely touched with its commercial WebSphere offering. However, just as likely to acquire the CE edition are IT professionals in large companies that "either just don't have the time to go through their procurement process, or don't have the budget to go do it."
Cosby adds that CE is a lightweight J2EE app server with a "very small footprint; about a 60 MB download. Still, this low-end, rapid deployment space is a busy one, with a lot of choices already, he adds. "There is a different set of competitors in that space," he observes. "There are lots of open-source projects that are out there, and there's lots of technology that customers can choose."