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Glassfish is doomed in the ‘department’

There’s been lots of discussion the past six months about the fate of MySQL under the ownership of Oracle. Now that the purchase of Sun is complete, I’m much more concerned about the fate of the excellent JEE platform Glassfish. For example some people think that superior technology will prove to Oracle that Glassfish is worth pursuing (see the comments on this dZone thread about

The problem for Glassfish, as the second sentence of this ServerSide article states (see it straight from Oracle’s mouth here, and see also here) is that Oracle view it as being used for “non-mission critical department apps”. Glassfish’s superior technology (or otherwise) just doesn’t come into it. It’s not a factor (as it rarely every is).

Not so long ago Oracle spent a big wad of money acquiring an app server (Weblogic) and then a stack of more money porting all its other products into it and branding the resulting mess platform “Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g”. Now not only do they have their third app server (OC4J/OAS, Weblogic and Glassfish), but the Sun product suite includes products that compete with various Fusion Middleware 11g products (portals, ESBs, and so on). So on one hand you’ve got a “departmental” application server, which you can either licence for free by downloading the open-source version, or buy support for the fancier ‘Enterprise’ version, and on the other, an expensive, full-stack-integrated (all the way to the IDE), fully-branded strategic platform that Oracle just invested a vast amount of money into, and have been pushing like crazy onto customers the past six months. And it is the same sales team that will sell both this licensed “departmental” Glassfish. Therefore if you say the magic words like “need a cluster” or maybe “we might build a portal”, or “we are considering adopting a service-orientated architecture”, lo and behold you’ll find the molto-dinero “Fusion Middleware” based solution installed all over your sorry arse quicker than you can say “can you please explain this per-core with special CPU-architecture-loading-factor licencing schema to me once again and why is it a different price if I upgrade my hardware without adding any additional cores???“.

Let’s dissect those “key points” of Oracle’s strategy announcement:

Key Point What they meant to say
GlassFish continues as the Java EE reference implementation and as an open source project. We see it as the way to dominate the direction of Java EE for at least two years, but for Larry’s sake don’t try to use it in production.
Oracle’s strategic application server, Oracle WebLogic Server, together with GlassFish, provide world class Java EE infrastructure. Oracle’s strategic application server, Oracle WebLogic Server something something something provide world-class something something infrastructure.
GlassFish Enterprise Server and WebLogic Server expected to share core components. We are the Borg. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
Oracle plans to add GlassFish Enterprise Server all WebLogic offerings. Hey, look at this cute free “reference implementation” thingy that comes free with Weblogic! You could use that to run your departmental Wiki instead of having to pay us another fortune for more Weblogic licences. Did you say “WIKI”? Did we tell you all about the great wiki-like Enterprise 2.0 features available in the Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g offering? How many test environments did you say you needed licences for?
GlassFish Web Stack maintained for existing customers. Not available for sale.
GlassFish Message Queue remains as the GlassFish messaging infrastructure. We’re not expecting to sell any licences of this. Just use Oracle Fusion Middleware’s SOA Suite 11g already. We’re fairly sure that’s got a message queue in it.
Oracle plans to license GlassFish Enterprise Server and Java System Web Server with all WebLogic Server offerings. See above.
GlassFish also available as standalone offering. Are you sure you didn’t mean to say “Weblogic”? No? Can you call back next Thursday at 2pm and ask for Fred? We’re reasonably certain he might know something about that Glassthingy.
GlassFish will continue to be supported and maintained for an extended time period for customers current on support. Well, the lawyers said we had to. We know how to do this. Ask any 10g customer.
GlassFish open source projects thrive As long as we will let them.

I know I’m a completely cynical bastard about these things, but I will wager within a few months that even if you deliberately ask for Glassfish Enterprise directly that you’ll have to fight off the Weblogic borg absolutely tooth and nail to the last man as they repeatedly try to board your IT department brandishing their integrated-wizard-driven Red Stack. I predict that, basically, after a year of not even trying to sell any Glassfish licences – because if you ask for any of the features that are in the licenced version and not the open-source one, you’ll be pushed to Weblogic (and anyway, at ten times the price they’ll prefer to sell you Weblogic as a default position, after all “Glassfish comes free with Weblogic”) – Oracle will announce, “there’s no sales in it”, then probably ditch the licenced Glassfish version completely, leaving only the open source version. Finally sometime after that they’ll cut the open source funding off and it will have to limp along without hardly any of the resources it formerly had. Maybe they’ll donate it to the ghetto of an Apache incubator project where it can die unnoticed a couple of years after that. It’s a pity because IMHO Glassfish is ten thousand times a better app server than anything Oracle ever produced, or even bought before this.


  1. There are reasons why I’m increasingly more interested in writing apps that run inside a pure servlet container…

    That said, the sidelining of Glassfish will probably just create room in the ecosystem for the SpringSource Server…

    Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 20:50 | Permalink
  2. Scot Mcphee wrote:

    That may be so, but increasingly I get the feeling that Spring is just the new J2EE. It’s big and heavy with lots of moving parts and options and no longer feels nimble to develop in.

    I think its horses for courses, of course, but I do know when I want anything from the JEE stack (e.g. messaging) I prefer to use Glassfish to any other container.

    Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 21:18 | Permalink
  3. Bill Ericsson wrote:

    Everything you’ve said can be applied to NetBeans as well. What many people believe to be the best IDE will wither and die as Oracle try and push JDeveloper.

    What they really should do is to rewrite (not port) all the value add and Oracle-specific bits as NetBeans modules.

    They could make NetBeans the killer IDE for everything. They can’t do that with JDeveloper.

    Oh, and invest in netigso to make NetBeans proper OSGI to take away the one valid reason to prefer Eclipse.

    Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 21:43 | Permalink
  4. Scot Mcphee wrote:

    Bill, what you say does not surprise me, I expected it, but I’m not a Netbeans user so I’ve not followed it as closely.

    Certainly I do know that Oracle push a lot of their JDeveloper/Weblogic features like ADF, as “programming Java without knowing Java” (for poor old Forms developers who don’t want to learn a new language and instead just ‘drag and drop’ and play with a property wizard). Seriously. So that’s the sort of market they are generally aiming at.

    Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 22:03 | Permalink
  5. Holger Schneider wrote:

    At my company we used Weblogic for many years. Due to high costs we moved to JBoss. Then we discovered we do not need EJBs and also we discovered Spring. So we moved to Tomcat and use Spring for everything. To say Spring is big and heavy with lots of moving parts is not correct. Spring is the most lightweight framework we found for Java development and also Tomcat. Also we use only the Spring jars we need for our applications to make it even smaller. The only missing component in Tomcat is JMS so we plugin Active MQ. Our development times and deployment times are now much smaller. We looked at Glassfish but we do not need EJB and J2EE and nobody use Glassfish.

    Friday, February 5, 2010 at 01:37 | Permalink
  6. Finally – someone who sees it like I do. After watching the various Oracle webinars, and then going back and seeing the more detailed session they did on Java tools – I couldn’t help but to come up with my own “What they meant to say” phrases.

    I essentially think that NetBeans and Glassfish are on their way out as we know them, but they want t make sure to maintain enough control over them to avoid the forks. Instead they want to groom those customers for the borg – and will do that slowly over time so they don’t realize what is happening to them.


    Friday, February 5, 2010 at 02:25 | Permalink
  7. Hi Scott.

    I sympathize with your perspective. There are some small things I could say, but the two main thoughts I can contribute are: If Oracle does not really support GlassFish, many customers will just go to JBoss, and I believe this is clear to the Oracle folks; and, “The proof of the pudding is in the roadmap” – see [1].

    I hope the near future will provide concrete evidence of how Oracle will treat GlassFish.


    Friday, February 5, 2010 at 08:31 | Permalink
  8. Scot Mcphee wrote:


    You’ll have to excuse my cynicism, I guess. I’ve been close to Oracle Fusion Middleware implementations the past couple of years. From my experience with the local sales teams, and the way they tend to sell the ‘red stack’ vision to their customers, I guess I don’t feel confident that whatever the group PM or GM might say in a ‘roadmap’ statement will translate into the appropriate action out in the field.

    Of course my full judgement should be reserved until I can evaluate their execution of said roadmap. Based on past experience, I just don’t hold confidence. They can be like a swarm of Borg boarding your department performing a site audit and wielding complex licensing agreements counting up every single CPU cycle and adding a dollar for each one.

    Friday, February 5, 2010 at 09:10 | Permalink
  9. No need to excuse yourself at all! You are correct and, in addition to the roadmap, Oracle needs to explain how GF will be bought (and sold). And, ultimately, the execution of all of these is what matters, of course.

    Friday, February 5, 2010 at 11:09 | Permalink
  10. Alexis MP wrote:

    Hi Scot, nice stylish write up.

    Oracle’s Mike Lehman has these comments :

    Although I don’t expect them to fully take you out of your cynicism though :)

    Friday, February 5, 2010 at 16:59 | Permalink

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