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Plentiful Middleware Options With Linux


The open-source Linux OS has impressive support in the IT industry and has opened the door to the notion that the software stack including middleware software could include both open-source and non-open-source software. The software and service community has responded with an abundance of technical alternatives. Both approaches have their merits.

Linux comes in many different distributions or variants. Almost all can be downloaded for free from the development project site or other sites dedicated to distributing Linux. Typically, you can also purchase a priced copy of Linux and support services from the organization’s site. Support services vary and often include software updates, technical support, consulting, training and certification.

Licensed-for-a-Fee Middleware Software

A variety of software is available from IBM and other suppliers that extend Linux, including middleware software. For IBM, Linux is supported on all contemporary systems including System z, Power Systems, System x and in the cloud. The same is true for the middleware and database environments running on Linux on those platforms.

IBM Rational software is available for Linux supporting modeling, design and development. Also enabled for Linux are many application-management disciplines including architecture, change and release, process and portfolio, and quality management. IBM WebSphere software is enabled for Linux including application and transaction infrastructure, application transformation, business integration, commerce and mobile solution support.

IBM Information Management and analytics products fully utilize Linux, including database servers and tools, data warehousing, content management, information integration and business intelligence. IBM Lotus software runs under and in support of Linux including application design and development, email, calendaring, collaboration, instant messaging and Web conferencing, social software and team collaboration.

IBM Tivoli products running on Linux provide the management support necessary to make full use of the OS and its ecosystem. Support is provided for management disciplines in the areas of security, server, network and device management. Service-management products are a big part of the IBM Tivoli portfolio and they run on Linux as well.

With this support from IBM, you can develop, run and support just about any application on Linux tapping into the quality and reliability of IBM software that reflects a long history of innovative development (see Table 1).

Open-Source Middleware Software

It’s straightforward to tell the story of traditional fee-licensed middleware software running on Linux from IBM because the support is so complete. What’s perhaps less well known is the size and scope of IBM’s involvement with open-source middleware and database community projects. IBM has more than 600 developers working with the community on more than 100 open-source projects.

As part of the open-source community, IBM contributes to Apache projects such as Apache Geronimo, and offers WebSphere Application Server (WAS) Community Edition as IBM’s supported distribution of Geronimo. The Community Edition is a lightweight Java EE 6 application server that provides a useful foundation for building Java applications. WAS Community Edition pre-integrates Apache Tomcat with other open-source components such as Web services, security, authentication and messaging. Also included is Web-tier clustering. It’s free and available to download and use in production environments. Support options are also available on a yearly subscription basis through IBM Passport Advantage.

IBM also offers DB2 Express-C, which is a no-charge community edition of DB2 server with core DB2 features. It’s available for download, deployment and redistribution at no charge. DB2 Express-C contains core capabilities of DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows with features like Time Travel Query, Data Studio, pureXML, Compression, and mobile database sync and support. Additionally, DB2 Express-C provides a unified tools environment that helps simplify database administration and development tasks. Support options are also available for DB2 Express-C that include 24-7 IBM customer support, fix packs, upgrade protection, and features such as high availability, disaster recovery and enhanced security.

Additionally, IBM contributes to the Apache Derby and Lucene projects and uses these open-source components in products like OmniFind Yahoo edition. IBM contributes to the Eclipse community and then uses Eclipse as the foundation on which the Rational Software Delivery Platform is built. IBM is also building its Jazz project for collaborative development using Eclipse. IBM has opened access to the Jazz development website to Rational clients, business partners and select individuals. A sample of the major open-source projects relating to middleware supported by IBM is shown in Table 2.

What Should I Use?

Several factors influence the decision whether to use fee-licensed software or open-source alternatives.

It’s considered lower risk to use fee-licensed software with Linux. However, support contracts are available for some open-source software that helps to mitigate the risks of using open-source solutions. Maturity is another factor to consider. Often licensed software has greater maturity and is better tested. However, this view doesn’t reflect the longstanding history of some open-source projects that are now widely tested and used.

Adoption costs are another factor when deploying software. Testing will be required for both fee-licensed and open-source software. However, piloting for the first projects will likely be a heavier burden for open-source projects. Skill requirements are different for fee-licensed and open-source software. The use of open-source software may require more intimate involvement with the software versus a more straightforward software product install and implementation. The open-source software engineer is more of a systems integrator in skill set.

When you’re considering open-source software for an upcoming project, do so in the context of a pilot project and move forward in a confident but prudent manner. You’ll find open-source software has a different set of conventions that you must master to give you the necessary confidence for a production implementation.


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Joseph Gulla is the IT leader of Alazar Press, an imprint of Royal Swan Enterprises. Previously, he was an executive IT specialist at IBM ending his 28-year career with the company in August 2012.


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