Open source projects out of sync with users says BEA

BEA's chief technology officer says the wishes of the open source community don't always coincide with users' needs

The open source community doesn’t always deliver software that customers want, says Rob Levy, executive vice president and chief technology officer of BEA Systems.

“The community builds what it thinks is good, but it is not always the same as what the customer thinks is good,” Levy said recently, on a visit to BEA’s research and development centre in Bangalore, India.

As an example, he gives the Apache Tomcat servlet container, which he says isn’t strong on management. Why? because management features weren’t seen as very important by the community, although BEA customers wanted it, Levy says. Therefore, BEA had to build a Tomcat management console for its WebLogic Java server platform, he says.

BEA has adopted what it calls a “blended strategy” on open source. It has put products in open source, to take advantage of the innovation that comes from community development, and also supports open source technologies like Spring and Hibernate on its own products, Levy says.

BEA announced earlier this year that it will open source a significant portion of BEA Kodo, its persistence engine, under the name Open JPA. BEA acquired Kodo after purchasing SolarMetric in November. Open JPA is a set of Java persistence APIs based on the Enterprise Java Beans 3.0 (EJB 3) standard. “We pushed Kodo out in open source and we now have 2,000 people working on it, as against 50 people when we bought the company,” Levy says.

However, there are other products that BEA will not release as open source, because it wants to retain full control over their development, Levy says.

“The reality of life, especially businesses, is that you have to be a good corporate citizen. You want to know where a piece of code came from because, if you don’t control it, how do you know there is nothing malicious in it?” he asks.

BEA has bet the farm on SOA (service-oriented architecture) because it will be fundamental to the way businesses are run, Levy says.

Industry and users can easily get taken in by the hype that SOA is going to halve IT costs, Levy says and, while there are some cost savings in deploying SOA, the technology’s real benefit is the agility and competitive advantage it gives companies to think up and add business services quickly, he says.

Without SOA, adding a service involves a time-consuming process to integrate it with the company’s existing services, but with SOA a company can add a service without making any system changes, he says.

Deploying SOA will also free company resources to focus on business processes, rather than the underlying IT infrastructure, he says.

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