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IBM, Avada Partner on Open Source WebSphere

The industry is taking the free version of WebSphere very seriously, but will that cannibalize IBM's own sales?

IBM today announced an OEM agreement with Java messaging vendor Avada Software, under which Avada will resell IBM's WAS-CE (WebSphere

Application Server Community Edition) bundled with its own Infrared360 management software. Though a relatively small company reselling IBM products may not seem particularly surprising, IBM is trumpeting the deal for two reasons: It demonstrates the popularity of the open-source version of WebSphere, and it signals a shift towards OEM deals in IBM's sales strategy.

Based on products acquired with Gluecode Software and launched in 2006, WAS-CE is IBM's free Java application platform and ESB (enterprise service bus.) Now in its second version, it's growth has accelerated in recent months. According to IBM, WAS-CE and Geronimo had reached two million downloads by the end of 2007, with one million in the last four months of the year alone. In comparison, the first million took 15 months.

Only a fraction of people who download the product actually end up using it, of course, and an even smaller fraction actually become IBM's paying customers. But the deal with Avada shows that the industry is taking the free version of WebSphere seriously. Avada's Infrared360 also supports the proprietary version of WebSphere and competitive products from vendors like Tibco and Sonic Software, so standardizing on WAS-CE rather than any of those is significant.



The risk to IBM is that WAS-CE will cannibalize sales of its non-free products, but IBM doesn't see it that way, believing that it can add value above and beyond what it gives away for free. It also points out that much of its software can work with both versions of WebSphere. For example, the XD (Extended Deployment) clustering system can load-balance applications across multiple Java servers, regardless of whether these happen to be the standard WebSphere Application Server, WAS-CE or a competitor's product.

IBM isn't the only ESB vendor moving towards open source. IONA has a very similar strategy, giving away a free core platform and selling add-ons modules. Open source ESBs are also available from MuleSource, Red Hat's JBoss and the Sun-backed OpenESB project.

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