Apache Geronimo readied as Java app server

Geronimo, the open source Java application server in development by the Apache Software Foundation, will provide a malleable technology base amenable to applications such as regulatory compliance systems, according to a technologist working on the project.

Discussed at the ApacheCon conference in Las Vegas on Monday, the application server has been available in early "Milestone" releases, with Apache eyeing 2005 availability for the general-release finished version, according to Bruce Snyder, a founding member and developer of Apache Geronimo. General availability will occur once the software receives J2EE 1.4 certification. The Milestone 3 release became available last week.

Asked what will make Geronimo compelling in the face of other application servers, such as the JBoss Inc.'s open source application server or commercial BEA Systems Inc. WebLogic Server, Snyder stressed that the lightweight kernel in Geronimo makes it more easily configurable for specialized applications, such as plug-ins to ensure that users are complying with regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Geronimo's kernel is focused on areas such as component configuration and dependency management.

"(The kernel) makes us more amenable to do anything you want," said Snyder. Geronimo technology already is being used in commercial projects, even though it is only in a pre-release state, Snyder said.

Apache also is accentuating the Apache BSD-style (Berkeley Software Distribution) licensing of Geronimo, which Snyder described as less restrictive than GPL (GNU General Public License) or LGPL (Lesser GPL) licensing, which require that code changes be released back to the community at large. "For a lot of commercial companies that put patented content into source code, somehow they can't release that back out to the open source world, so there's a clear distinction" between GPL-based and Apache open source licensing, Snyder said.

An attendee at the Geronimo session noted the emphasis on the licensing difference during the Apache presentation.

"I thought it was interesting that the license seemed to be the primary driver for developing the product," said David Noble, principal consultant at consulting firm Qwan Technologies. Noble said GPL-style licensing is good for government usage while the Apache BSD format is more attuned to businesses.

Geronimo will feature support for EJB, messaging, and security. Clustering will be added to Geronimo at some point as well, although it is not a major focus at this point since it is not required for J2EE 1.4 certification.

Also at the show, Apache revealed that the planned 3.1 release of its open source spam filter, SpamAssassin, is set to focus on speed and accuracy, said Theo Van Dinter, who serves on the Apache program management committee for SpamAssassin and gave a presentation on the software on Monday.

Expected in three to four months, Version 3.1 is expected to feature faster filtering and quicker updates to rules, which look for spam-related patterns in messaging. Rules must be updated quickly so Apache can stay ahead of spammers trying to defeat the purpose of anti-spam software, Van Dinter said. "It's an arms race, really," he said.

Also planned for Release 3.1 is an "early exit" feature, in which if the spam engine recognizes early in the process that an e-mail is spam, it will not process the e-mail through the entire rules engine.

Earlier in the day, ApacheCon attendees heard actor/writer and blogger Wil Wheaton, of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Stand By Me" fame, praise Weblogs and the Internet empowerment of anyone who has something to say.

"Blogs are changing the way people communicate with one another, so it's just becoming more and more difficult for mainstream media and government and big powerbrokers to keep people, us, out of the conversation. I think that's exciting," Wheaton said.

Bloggers are even beating out major news organizations on stories such as CBS' use of apparently forged documents about President George Bush's National Guard Service, or Senator Trent Lott's comments pertaining to his wish that the late Senator Strom Thurmond had been elected president, Wheaton said.

"It was a bunch of conservative bloggers" that questioned the authenticity of the Guard documents, Wheaton said. "It was just normal people that did that. Ten years ago, that wouldn't be possible."

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