Open Source Apps Server Embraces Java, Wireless

In its new edition, an open source application server can now host wireless programs and run server-side Java code, changes that could make the offering a more attractive alternative to products from the likes of BEA Systems and IBM.

Lutris Technologies's Enhydra 3.0 is a new release of a program first introduced a little more than a year ago. By combining Enhydra with other open source software such as Linux and the Apache Web server, companies can run complex Web applications on a foundation of community software.

Engine is free

The basic Enhydra engine can be downloaded and deployed for free. For a fee, Lutris packages the software with documentation, certification testing, integrated free and third-party software, and various consulting and support services.

Lutris officials say 25,000 copies of Enhydra have been downloaded so far.

Application servers are at the heart of most Web commerce sites. They run the applications in a middle tier, insulated from the client Web browsers, and from back-end databases. This separation lets IT groups makes changes to any one tier without requiring additional changes in the others. The separation also makes it easier to add copies of the application server, and additional computers, to handle high traffic volumes.

Enhydra 3.0 will support wireless applications based on work done by a Taiwanese company called TopWare, which implemented a specification called the Wireless Markup Language in Java. WML is based on XML. A developer could build an application in WML or HTML, and Enhydra would compile it into a Java class that runs on the application server.

Then, through another software program, called a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) server, Enhydra would read an incoming request from a handheld device and create the right kind of display so the application would appear on the handheld's screen in usable form.

Also new in Version 3.0 is technology for spreading applications across multiple servers so that more users can access the applications. In the event of a server crash, Enhydra can now make sure that most end users can still access the applications.

Open source developers are enthusiastic about Enhydra. "It's the core engine behind our publishing and content management systems," says Victor Brilon, technology strategist for AnywhereYouGo.com, a Dallas company that offers a Web site for wireless application developers. Frustrated with the shortcomings of proprietary applications servers, Brilon and his colleagues chose Enhydra.

"It is tremendously stable. It is completely standards-based. And it does the best job of any apps server in helping us separate our business logic [application code] from our presentation logic [the visual display] and from our back-end data," Brilon says.

Separation counts

That separation is important because Web page designers and Java programmers can work separately, making changes that won't affect other parts of the Web-based application.

Enhydra 3.0 will be available in standard, professional and enterprise editions.

The standard edition, due in April, includes the basic server, plus services and support, full documentation, and Enhydra certification for a variety of operating systems, databases and Web servers. The price tag will be less than $US250.

The professional edition, due in May, will cost less than $500 and incorporate the Jbuilder Foundation Java tool set from Inprise, Apache Web server, the PosgreSQL database and other software.

The enterprise edition, scheduled for availability sometime in the summer, will add the full set of Java2 Enterprise Edition APIs and documentation, along with an array of third-party software products still to be determined, all for under $1,000.

All editions run on Linux, Windows NT and Solaris.

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