Red Hat prepares application server upgrade

Red Hat plans to release version 2.0 of its Java application server by the middle of the year, adding several enhancements for enterprise users along with, it hopes, certification for Sun Microsystems' J2EE 1.4 specification, an engineer with the company said this week.

Red Hat released the first version of the Red Hat Application Server (RHAS) last August, extending its business beyond Linux and into Java middleware. RHAS is based on JOnAS, or Java Open Application Server, an open source project managed by the European middleware consortium ObjectWeb.

Among the enhancements to RHAS 2.0 will be better scalability and clustering, provided by a choice of Red Hat's own clustering suite or ObjectWeb's C-JDBC software, said Patrick Macdonald, the engineering manager for RHAS, speaking at the ObjectWeb conference in Lyon, France, on Tuesday.

It will also include tools for configuring multiple instances of the application server simultaneously, and tighter integration with Red Hat's developer tools and with those of Eclipse. Version 2 will also offer remote monitoring; currently, Red Hat can provide monitoring for BEA Systems' application server on Red Hat Linux but not for its own, Macdonald said.

Significantly for Red Hat, it hopes to base RHAS 2.0 on an upcoming release of JOnAS that will be certified under the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) 1.4 specification. Market leaders BEA and IBM, as well as open source rival JBoss, are all already J2EE1.4 certified, and some enterprises see it as a checklist item when making a buying decision.

"When we walk into customer sites the first thing they ask is, 'Is it certified?' Then they want performance numbers based on this or that configuration," Macdonald said.

Red Hat has even dispatched engineers to Grenoble, France, to work with ObjectWeb on getting JOnAS certified as quickly as possible, according to one Red Hat engineer. ObjectWeb says it expects to complete certification any day now.

The planned improvements for RHAS 2.0 may not all make it into the first release; some of them may be delivered with later updates, Macdonald said.

Many of the features being added already exist in the more established Java servers, but they are still important if Red Hat hopes to build a business for RHAS among enterprise customers, said Shawn Willett, a senior analyst with Current Analysis Inc. "These are the tickets to entry in the corporate environment," he said.

JBoss has a better known open source application server, especially outside of Europe, he noted. But RHAS may still be a nice additional choice for Red Hat Linux customers, Willett said. A few customers have already deployed RHAS, according to Red Hat, but it wasn't ready to name them this week.

As reported, Red Hat also plans to release an upgrade to its Linux operating system next month that will add support for the Linux 2.6 kernel. It expects to ship RHAS 2.0 three or four months after the operating system upgrade, Macdonald said, which would be May or June.

Red Hat also plans to distribute Apache Beehive with RHAS once the project has advanced from its current "incubator," or trial, status at the Apache Software Foundation, according to Macdonald. Beehive was developed by BEA Systems and provides a tools framework that can speed application development by providing developers with prewritten chunks of code and drag and drop tools.

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