Perhaps it was the preceding post Sun-MySQL buzz or the tidal wave of speculation surrounding a potential Microsoft-Yahoo merger that served to overshadow last week's SpringSource-Covalent announcement. However, regardless of its "press index," the merger marks not just the joining of forces by two notable players in the open source landscape but also the synthesis of two technologies (Spring and Tomcat) that have played a sizable role in the evolution of enterprise application development over the past three years. While the Spring portfolio has garnered the lion share of consideration as the new face of enterprise Java development, Tomcat has quietly become a staple in the same arena. And as it stands, finding a Java developer who hasn't heard of Tomcat is like, well, finding one who can't tell you what Spring is. A fact that few claimed to dispute, only that Tomcat has historically played the role of a well-kept secret instead of an up-and-comer.
Still, as the Covalent business model bares witness to, Tomcat has also found a home in more than a handful of data centers. Nonetheless, Tomcat is consistently classed for it isn't as opposed to what it is. Thrown into the same category as a JBoss or even a Geronimo (WAS Community Edition), Tomcat is mostly overlooked as a smaller, not feature-poor open source application server, when in reality it was never developed to be an fully-fledged app server. Yet for those, who continue to associate enterprise application infrastructure solely with the traditional application server, Tomcat isn't ready to approach the holy grail of "enterprise-readiness." In light of the presumption that scalability and uptime is gained through hoofing the app server route, it's interesting how easily accepted that reality that Apache httpd powers countless scalable LAMP apps while Tomcat's ability to do the same for Java apps is barely granted a passing murmur. In actuality, Tomcat continues to be used behind a fair share of non-trivial web application. Maybe not to the extent that its ASF brother has, but certainly proportional within the boundaries of the Java web development.
Still companies with products positioned around the Java web container have taken note of how a significant chunk of their service and support business involves Tomcat-driven applications and infrastructures. Enterprise penetration was certainly high enough to warrant the acquisition of the leading support and service provider for Tomcat to be snapped up, not by a threatened giant, but an emerging open source player, like SpringSource. Perhaps this move will pave the way for a more complete top-to-bottom lightweight stack for Java development similar in composition to LAMP...who knows?
So as SpringSource and Covalent work towards merging operations under one roof, it will be interesting to note the growth curve for Tomcat as a commercially viable commodity...especially with regards to Spring powered applications. I fully expect an ascertainable jump in decisions to standardize on Spring-Tomcat now that services and support subscriptions are available from a single source. Which might not constitute a direct threat to an Oracle or an IBM per se, but is certainly the source of cohesive commercial momentum for open source in the enterprise.