Open-Source Middleware Is Ready For Consideration - InformationWeek

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9/15/2006
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Open-Source Middleware Is Ready For Consideration

Businesses usually opt for commercial versions of middleware, but they may be missing out on open-source options that offer speed, cost savings, and reliability.

Middleware is the pivot man of software integration, a key player to whom all messages and transactions get passed. There are stars--such as IBM WebSphere, Oracle Fusion, and BEA WebLogic--and there's open source middleware, a less-proven, amateur player.

Yet increasingly, open source middleware is standing up to the pros. The muscle behind it includes Linux, the Apache Web Server, the JBoss and Apache Geronimo application servers, and the Apache Axis2 messaging stack. Open source is especially capable when IT shops choose Web services for the integration process.

Tech support earns Bergman's goodwill

Tech support earns Bergman's goodwill

Photo by David Deal
At Goodwill Industries, a federation of 205 organizations, CIO Steve Bergman wanted to avoid an exhaustive and expensive software integration project that would absorb millions of dollars. But without more integration, he couldn't support Goodwill's effort to extend services to member stores and training to employees over the Web.

Bergman turned to the Apache Tomcat application server and Liferay, an open source code portal, to integrate his Microsoft SQL Server databases and back-end systems through Web services. Goodwill saved a significant amount in costs. "Instead of spending our budget on software licenses, we spent it on customizing our production systems for our mission," he says.

That work resulted in Goodwill's MyGoodwill site, which launched last year. It offers online training, searchable content on best practices and knowledge management, and collaboration tools to 80,000 Goodwill employees. Visitors find "centers of practice" where they can learn such things as how best to set up clothing displays in a store.

The brains behind the site is a search and reporting application capable of downloading thousands of XML and HTML reports and documents continuously to hundreds of concurrent users. When development began on the application in early last year, Bergman admits he wasn't sure "open source code software and Liferay were mature enough to handle all of this."

Turns out they were. "This is a major enterprise application," Bergman says. "And it's working beautifully."

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