I read the news that SpringSource has named itself the "first proper" Java application server product in a decade, and I was left scratching my head. Over the years I've heard just about everyone call themselves an "app server" at some point (Funambol went through a spell when it was a "mobile application server" [PDF] and ActiveGrid was a "grid application server", or something, as just two examples), and the only two times it made sense to me (in the open-source context) were with JBoss and Geronimo.
How did SpringSource become an application server? I thought it was a framework.
So, apparently, does Marc Fleury, who had some blunt counsel for SpringSource's founder, Rod Johnson:
To me this is a VC driven move. Spring is a natural consultancy, being a development framework, but they have been struggling with their sales in the runtime. So voila, we now have a box drawn around an OSGi kernel, the Spring framework and Hibernate/Tomcat, and it has a name: it's an application server. It is the same thing you had yesterday for free, except it is now under the GPL and a proprietary subscription license.
I laugh. SpringSource is trying to monetize its ISV user base. Good for them! I predict this flat-footed license change will have little traction with the ISV community. Why? because getting the ISVs to pay will take more than branding around previously BSD licensed software. Exactly what does an OSGi kernel bring on top of Tomcat? Nothing. What does this bring you if you ALREADY ship Spring and Hibernate/Tomcat (from JBoss?) nothing.
Spring is fantastic technology and perhaps it really is an application server. Or perhaps, as Marc suggests, this is simply a way to market itself into justifying runtime fees. I think highly of the Spring technology and admire Peter Fenton, the leading investor behind it, so all things being equal, I'd prefer to see SpringSource succeed.
I just don't understand why it's an application server. I'm probably too ignorant to appreciate the applicability of the nomenclature, but to me it doesn't fit.