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SpringSource acquires Hyperic, with eye to take on IBM, Microsoft

The open-source leader in Java development has acquired IT management vendor Hyperic, a move that signals a new phase of commercial open-source competition.

SpringSource announced Monday its acquisition of Hyperic, a move that signals a new phase of commercial open-source competition.

Until recently, open-source vendors like SpringSource seemed content to play the low-cost commodity foil to the broader product portfolios of their proprietary peers. No more.

SpringSource, the company behind the Spring Framework, the leading open-source application framework for Java, has been nudging beyond its roots for some time. Most recently, SpringSource announced commercial support for Tomcat, arguably the world's most prevalent Java application server. It has also released tools to expedite and facilitate the development of Java applications.

In these ways, it has continued its march toward a more complete Java development model and, in the process, has girded its ability to monetize the otherwise free and open-source Spring Framework. With over half the Fortune 2000 as users of the Spring Framework, it is this ability to turn users into paying customers that has been perhaps most critical to SpringSource's product plans.

With Hyperic, SpringSource completes its vision to provide a "complete suite of software products that accelerate the entire build, run, manage enterprise Java application lifecycle," and moves from framework provider to a true solution provider--one that competes directly with IBM and Microsoft.

The acquisition of Hyperic cements a longstanding partnership between the two companies. SpringSource has been OEM'ing Hyperic's technology since 2007. By acquiring Hyperic, however, SpringSource makes it possible to fully manage the applications that its customers build using the Spring Framework.

As Javier Soltero, CEO of Hyperic, told me in a phone interview:

The SpringSource philosophy has always been about making it easier to build enterprise-grade Java applications. But the pillar of this acquisition is about offering the full application lifecycle: build the applications, run those applications, and then manage those applications using Hyperic.

This is more than a marriage of code. It's about merging the best people in IT management with the best in Java application development. It gives us broader and deeper visibility up and down the software stack and across a company's network and data center, including virtualization and cloud computing environments. It means that we've just reduced and, in some cases, eliminated the gap between application development and IT operations.

Soltero will become CTO of management products with SpringSource.

I asked Soltero about speculation that this acquisition was simply the fulfillment of a whim on the part of Peter Fenton of Benchmark Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who has invested in both SpringSource and Hyperic and is an active investor in a range of open-source companies. As Soltero explained it, while "Benchmark is of course happy with the combination," it was not involved in promoting it and, for legal reasons, could not be involved.

Regardless, the SpringSource/Hyperic combination creates a clear and present danger to IBM and Microsoft, two companies that have largely stood alone in the ability to build, run, and manage applications. It's also a significant boon to companies looking to open source to save money and improve productivity.

Is it a sign of good things to come from not only SpringSource, but also open source, generally? Time will tell, but I suspect we're on the cusp of an aggressive and ambitious new phase in open-source competition.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.