Oracle will stop offering commercial support for new versions of the open source GlassFish application server, leaving customers who want such support with the option of licensing the more expensive and proprietary WebLogic Server.
GlassFish Open Source Edition 4.1 will be released in 2014, as previously announced, according to an Oracle blog post this week. However, "Oracle GlassFish Server will not be releasing a 4.x commercial version," the post states. Oracle acquired the product when it bought Sun Microsystems.
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"Oracle recommends that existing commercial Oracle GlassFish Server customers begin planning to move to Oracle WebLogic Server, which is a natural technical and license migration path forward," it adds.
Applications that adhere to Java Enterprise Edition standards are compatible with both GlassFish and WebLogic, according to the blog. In addition, the products, "share a quite a bit of code, so there are quite a bit of configuration and (extended) feature similarities," it states.
They also both support the use of Oracle products such as Access Manager, Coherence, Oracle's flagship database, and Enterprise Manager, according to the blog.
Under Oracle's lifetime support policy, commercial customers of GlassFish versions 2.1.x and 3.1.x will continue being supported, it adds.
Although Oracle is backing away from commercial support for GlassFish, the core code remains integral to its plans for Java, according to the blog.
"Oracle is committed to the future of Java EE," it states. "Java EE 7 has been released and planning for Java EE 8 has begun. GlassFish Server Open Source Edition continues to be the strategic foundation for Java EE reference implementation going forward."
However, "going forward, Oracle WebLogic Server will be the single strategic commercially supported application server from Oracle," the post reiterated.
Oracle's decision presents a mixed bag of outcomes, in one observer's view.
"Folks that prefer GlassFish as their Oracle-supported production Java server now are looking at a big rise in costs," Forrester Research analyst John Rymer said via email on Tuesday.
Oracle charges $5,000 per processor license for its commercial distribution of GlassFish. Licenses for WebLogic Standard Edition are $10,000, while Enterprise Edition and WebLogic Suite cost $25,000 and $45,000 per processor, respectively.
"That being said, I doubt many shops will be affected by this product move," Rymer added. "We don't have precise data on the size of the GlassFish community that buys Oracle support, but it seems small to me. Probably very small."
GlassFish is not the first Sun product Oracle has given up trying to directly make money on, following its 2011 decision to submit the OpenOffice.org code base to the Apache Software Foundation.
Oracle's decision regarding GlassFish didn't come as a huge surprise to technology consultant Markus Eisele.
"GlassFish was something to worry about right from the start," Eisele wrote in a blog post on Tuesday, noting that Oracle killed its own application server in favor of WebLogic, which it gained by purchasing BEA.
But in fact, "Oracle did a decent job in nurturing the [Glassfish] community and keeping their stuff together," Eisele said. However, "Oracle obviously did not make enough money out of the commercial licenses otherwise they wouldn't have killed the offering at all," he added.
But GlassFish may suffer as a purely open source project, in Eisele's view. "If a vendor is not only developing an open source alternative but also has a commercial offering, this leads to different things that will be taken care of implicitly," such as the fact that bugs found by customers will end up in the open-source release, he wrote. In addition, "customers demand more frequent releases and security patches which also end up in the OSS version."
It would be beneficial for GlassFish users if Oracle created a "clear upgrade path" to WebLogic, he added. "Find a way to at least support a development setting based on a very lightweight server and only deploy to a full blown [WebLogic Server] in production."
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com