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Some Decisions are Easy – Like SpringSource Acquiring Covalent

My last blog showed how Spring is soaring past EJB. Research by BZ Media and others shows that Apache Tomcat is the leading open source application server with a 64% market penetration. The dominance of Spring and Tomcat is well-known. What people may not know as well is that thousands of organizations are running Spring on Tomcat as their middleware infrastructure. Those organizations want one company to turn to for the products and services they need to be successful.

Today we announced our acquisition of Covalent Technologies. Not only does Covalent bring Apache leadership, but our combined company now has significant leadership on Apache Tomcat and HTTP. Two weeks ago, Sun paid $1bn for the “M” in LAMP. Now that Covalent’s outstanding Apache expertise and services are part of SpringSource, we are strong leaders in the “A”. We have always been about technology leadership, so we're very excited about what we can do together with Covalent. Over the last few years, Covalent has earned a great reputation in the marketplace with its support for Apache projects, including Tomcat and Apache HTTP. Its hundreds of support customers include more than half of the Fortune 500, and household names like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, British Telecom (BT), NASA, Intel, Royal Bank of Scotland and Bear Stearns. Our announcement today begins a new phase in the history of our company, and–I believe—the rapidly changing application platform market.

Developers, architects and IT managers love Tomcat, and it’s increasingly used in production. They also love Spring, and it’s core to more and more mission-critical applications. SpringSource and Covalent are seeing each other all the time in large organizations, hence a marriage to create the de facto provider for Spring and related Apache products and services. At the recent Spring Experience show, this was echoed throughout the hundreds of developers, architects and senior IT managers attending. Ninety-three (93) percent Spring users are also running their applications, many of them mission critical, on Tomcat.

SpringSource is now the leading vendor of support for Apache Tomcat, HTTP and other Apache software projects, as well as for the Spring Portfolio. We have further strengthened our already outstanding engineering and support teams, and have the ability to provide packaged support offerings to our customers spanning the key open source projects they use.

In all cases, our support is backed by core committers on the key project teams. For example, consider Ohloh rankings on Apache HTTPD, showing SpringSource’s Bill Rowe as the most active committer, over a period of many years. Ohloh is a tool for ranking activity on open source projects that’s a handy resource when choosing the provider of your open source support. You can see whether any of your support dollars are going into developing open source software (and thus helping to ensure that the projects you depend on will be dependable tomorrow), and you can judge whether or not the staff who are paid to solve your problems have the expertise and intimate knowledge of the code to ensure that they can do so quickly, and in the best possible way.

We are excited to deepen our relationship with the Apache Software Foundation (ASF). SpringSource looks forward to playing a large role in contributing to ASF projects and continuing Covalent's tradition of valuing, promoting and sponsoring the ASF. We will engage with the Apache community across many projects, events and initiatives, and we will provide top quality support on Apache projects for our customers.

There are many reasons that this acquisition is a great strategic fit, and why SpringSource’s existing staff and their new colleagues from Covalent are all thrilled about it. As we merge the two organizations, we’re discovering more and more synergies, but here are some of the key points:


  • Complementary product mix. As Spring and Tomcat becomes the most popular platform for enterprise Java deployment, combining our leadership of Spring with Covalent’s deep expertise in Tomcat and other Apache technologies is uniquely compelling.
  • Similar culture and values. SpringSource is a company founded by outstanding technologists, and which has hired more and more throughout its history. Covalent employs outstanding engineers and support staff, including ASF Chairman and Apache HTTPD's longest running active committer, Jim Jagielski, Apache luminary Bill Rowe, and leading Tomcat developer Filip Hanik, among others. We’re all excited about working together, and we can learn from each other. I’m honored to have these guys join our team, and very happy that they are enthusiastic about it.
  • Credible open source support. We believe that credible open source support can only be provided by companies making a sustained investment in open source development and employing key committers on supported projects.
  • Alignment of business goals. We’re excited to have Covalent CEO Mark Brewer and COO Ryan Lindsay joining our executive team. They have a deep understanding of open source business gained through years of experience, and they can help us achieve our shared vision.
  • Ability to provide the best possible support. As support becomes more and more important to our business, acquiring Covalent’s support infrastructure and expertise will allow us to provide the runtime, production support that Covalent is known for. In turn, our global reach will make it easier to provide 24x7 support for Covalent customers.
  • Shared commitment to and proven success in satisfying customers. Covalent enjoys a 95% renewal rate among its subscription customers.
  • Open source business is partly about critical mass: the creation of a web of relationships around a central pole. SpringSource + Covalent is now the leading provider of support for the enterprise Java open source that matters most.

What does this mean to SpringSource customers? We will now be able to provide support for Apache projects, including Tomcat, in addition to Spring. One number to call; a broader technology portfolio of projects that matter. The Spring Portfolio will continue its outstanding record of portability between environments. We’ll continue to support customers using all middleware platforms, including WebLogic and WebSphere. You’ll soon see additional announcements about SpringSource product initiatives for those platforms.

What does this mean to Covalent customers? The great team you rely on is still in place, but now backed by a larger organization, with worldwide reach. We’ll continue to offer all of Covalent’s products, but you will also benefit from packaged support spanning the Spring Portfolio. The Covalent engineers will continue their active participation in numerous open source projects and their vital contribution to the life of the ASF.

At SpringSource, we are committed to becoming the defining company in open source enterprise Java. We are building for long-term success, not merely short-term objectives. This means that we need to be able to provide our customers with the best expertise in the infrastructure software they need to be successful, and, as open source becomes more and more important to the enterprise, we need to engage with all the open source communities that matter, over the long haul.

We understand the respect the different ways of developing open source software that have grown and sustained communities and produced quality technology. The three most important to our users are the Spring Portfolio approach, the ASF, and the Eclipse Foundation.

SpringSource created and sustains the Spring Portfolio, and we will increasingly engage with the other two communities as part of our strategy of ensuring that we have deep expertise where customers require it. Looking at what matters in enterprise Java, it’s clear that, in addition to the Spring Portfolio, Apache projects are vitally important–notably Tomcat, but several more besides. If you want to create a highly scalable web application, you will put Apache HTTP in front of Java middleware. In development, you are most likely using the Eclipse Platform, and perhaps Mylyn. If you’re interested in OSGi and the Spring Dynamic Modules for OSGi Project (which just about every one who attends our events seems to be), you are most likely to use the Equinox OSGi runtime, also from the Eclipse Foundation. And since Spring 2.0, AspectJ, another Eclipse project, has been core to the Spring Portfolio in practice.

We’re contributing to all those projects. We now employ key ASF members and committers who are involved in multiple ASF projects, including playing a particularly active role in developing Tomcat and Apache HTTP. We employ the most active AspectJ developers, ensuring the future of that project at Eclipse. Through our partnership with Tasktop Technologies to develop the SpringSource Spring Tool Suite, we are contributing code to the Eclipse ecosystem and Mylyn in particular. Recent hire as Distinguished Engineer Glyn Normington is an Equinox committer.

As the Spring Portfolio has broadened over the last year, Spring has become more than the Spring Framework. While Spring is central to our business, our customers’ applications, and the future of enterprise Java, SpringSource as a company is about being the leading partner for success with open source enterprise Java, not just about Spring – a partner that will continue our proud track record of leadership and innovation, and offer deep expertise in and commitment to the open source projects that continue to transform the industry.

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