Spring founder downplays rumored IBM-Sun merger

Java platform being driven more by developers and open source these days, Spring's Rod Johnson says.

The founder of the popular Spring Framework for Java, Rod Johnson, said Thursday he does not anticipate much impact if a possible acquisition of Java founder Sun by Java advocate IBM comes to fruition.

In an interview in Las Vegas, Johnson, CEO of SpringSource, said it was developers who are the drivers of the Java platform these days. Earlier in the day, he had given a keynote presentation at TheServerSide Java Symposium event and pondered the rumored acquisition.

"My answer was that I don't think [the possible merger] means that much because it really is developers and open source that are driving the Java platform today," Johnson said.

"In terms of Java middleware, which I care about most, I don't think [the rumored deal] makes a whole lot of difference. I think it's [been] many years since IBM or Sun set the agenda," he said.

"It's really the community, open source projects and businesses based on open source that are driving things forward," said Johnson. Rumors of such an acquisition first spread earlier this week. If true, the acquisition would be "a mild positive for the Java language because it shows the depth of commitment IBM has," Johnson said.

Reflecting on his presentation, Johnson said he discussed how economic cycles influence software. "My basic argument was that over the last 10 years, you can pretty much map back the fluctuations in enterprise Java complexity to the economic cycle," he said.

During the dot-com boom period of several years ago, there were high levels of complexity because no one was questioning the added cost, said Johnson. A recession, though, presents the end of enterprise Java complexity, he said.

SOA also has been impacted by the economy, Johnson explained. CIOs had become convinced that they needed to buy something to have an SOA, but now, they are more prone to working with whatever technologies they already have and exposing services to enable interoperability, he said.

"I think a lot of the complex SOA solutions like BEA AquaLogic and the like are becoming significantly less sought-after," he said. Similar to a January blog post from analyst Anne Thomas Manes of Burton Group, Johnson said the term SOA is going out of fashion.

Buying SOA is being replaced by actually doing SOA, Johnson stressed.

Java, he said, was moving beyond the era of the monolithic application server presented by products like IBM WebSphere or Oracle WebLogic, formerly a BEA product. "Those products are complex. They're far more complex than the language," Johnson said. The most widely deployed application server is the much simpler Apache Tomcat server, he said.

Developers, Johnson said, have been empowered in the past 10 years. "There's been a very profound shift toward developers making choices rather than just working with products that senior management might buy," he said, citing the Eclipse IDE as an example of such a choice. "Eclipse is something that kind of got in under the radar," because it was popular with developers, he said.

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