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IBM scales back Gluecode plans

As a start-up, Gluecode envisioned a full open-source middleware stack. Now, IBM has narrowed it down to one low-end product.

IBM has scaled back the ambitions of Gluecode, the open-source start-up it acquired earlier this year, focusing it on a single product.

Gluecode offers ongoing support services around Gluecode Standard Edition, open-source server software for running Java applications.

The product is based on Geronimo, an open-source Java Platform Enterprise Edition application server developed at the Apache Foundation. The IBM package also includes administration tools to ease installation and management.

But before IBM's purchase of Gluecode in May, the fledgling company had a more expansive business plan.

It intended to create services around a full suite, or "stack," of open-source Java middleware. The goal was to offer an open-source alternative that could compete by undercutting entrenched vendors on price.

Gluecode had signed on about 10 customers that were getting ongoing support and update services around Pluto, a Java-based Web portal developed at Apache. It also donated code to another Apache Project called Agila--still in the "incubator" phase--to build an open-source Java workflow server.

Toward the end of last year, Gluecode decided to hem in its product plans, a process IBM has furthered, according to Scott Cosby, Gluecode transition executive at IBM's Software Group.

"They did a lot of professional services around Pluto and the portal offering (but) we have a lot of those capabilities already in our (WebSphere) portfolio," Cosby said.

The WebSphere brand covers a broad range of back-end software, from a Java application server to integration software and portals.

"Since we acquired them, we really focused in on the application server market and just to be successful there and figure out what we need to do there, and not try to dilute it with parts of our business that it would conflict with," Cosby said.

Cosby said that IBM's WebSphere customers are typically large companies looking for high-end software.

The Gluecode application server, which is far less complete and mature than WebSphere, is meant to give IBM a foothold among smaller customers.

"We were not serving this (low-end) marketplace at all. In conjunction, we were seeing a commoditization around standards on the low end and the emergence of open source as a 'good enough' alternative," Crosby said. "We wanted to have this as a core offering."

IBM has no immediate plans to participate in open-source Java portal or workflow server projects, Cosby said. The existing Gluecode portal customers were taken over by a third party, he said.

Meanwhile, open-source middleware company JBoss is moving rapidly toward assembling a full suite of back-end Java software.

The company recently released the second version of its Java portal software and said that it intends to create a standards-based integration server, called an enterprise service bus. All its products are freely available; it charges for ongoing support services.