LYON, FRANCE - The ObjectWeb middleware consortium this week put the spotlight on corporate and government users who have adopted its software for production use.
Groupe Bull and France Télécom SA, two of Objectweb's founders, were likely the biggest users here at its annual conference in Lyon, France, but some other corporations have also climbed on board, including Greco International AG, an insurance broker based in Vienna, which is using a document management system based on Enhydra Shark, ObjectWeb's open source workflow engine.
"Until this year we were seen as mostly technologists, but now we are seen as providers of tools for building real applications," according to Jean-Pierre Laisne, chairman of ObjectWeb and the manager of Linux and open source strategy at Bull.
ObjectWeb was founded three years ago by Bull, France Télécom and France's National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control, known by its French acronym, INRIA. It is best known for JOnAS, its Java Open Application Server, which is used by Red Hat Inc. as the basis for its own application server launched last year. But ObjectWeb is home to several dozen open-source middleware projects in all, at various stages of development.
Bull used JOnAS as part of a system it developed for the French government's Caisse Nationale d'Allocations Familiales (CNAF), the social services arm responsible for child support payments. The CNAF system has been in production for about a year and handles data mining requests, OLAP queries and report generation for users at 123 local CNAF offices, according to Gerard Roucairol, Bull's chief scientist.
France Télécom is using JOnAS for several applications including its online store, service management applications and a consolidated address book for its voice, mobile and Internet customers, said France Télécom's Remi Cayuela. The carrier is a big fan of open source software. It runs Linux on about 1,500 production servers, mostly for serving Web pages and running J2EE applications, Cayuela said. Its IT department is encouraged to use JOnAS wherever possible, although some of France Télécom's packaged applications will only run on proprietary servers, he said.
Greco's document management system was developed by Together Teamlosungen GmbH, a services and software company majority-owned by Greco. The system went live about six months ago and manages insurance contracts for about 20,000 clients, which add up to about 1.5 million documents, according to Robert Zachajewicz, Together Teamlosungen's vice president of marketing and sales. It is used by 300 employees across nine Greco subsidiaries in Austria, he said.
Greco's introduction to open source technology wasn't a particularly smooth one. The Enhydra open source project was originally managed by California startup Lutris Technologies Inc., which developed the software. Lutris went out of business in 2002, leaving Together Teamlosungen to continue developing the software itself. It eventually found a home for the software at ObjectWeb, and Enhydra is now managed jointly by ObjectWeb and Together Teamlosungen.
The fact that Enhydra was open source was a plus, according to Zachajewich, because it allowed Together Teamlosungen to keep using the software. If the software had been proprietary it might have had to restart its project from scratch when Lutris went under. Working with ObjectWeb has allowed it to benefit from bug fixes and modifications submitted by a community of Enhydra developers, he said.