Today, GlassFish 3.1 is released. The major improvements over the 3.0.1 release are support for clustering and availability and centralized administration. This makes the GlassFish Application Server a production-ready piece of middleware that fits perfectly in an end-to-end commercial offering.
When Oracle announced it would acquire Sun, many people were sceptic about the future of GlassFish. In some scenario's, GlassFish would "only" serve as the reference implementation for current and upcoming Java Enterprise specifications. Many feared that clustering, which was part of GlassFish 2.1 but not of GlassFish 3.0.1 (which major achievement is a full implementation of the Java EE 6 specification) would never be added to the GlassFish 3 family.
While being the reference implementation for Java EE 6 is far from trivial, the potential of GlassFish is much higher. Compared with most other application servers, GlassFish is very lightweight. And now, with the support for clustering and availability, GlassFish is also very robust, scalable and reliable.
Compared with only a couple of years ago --- or compared with previous versions of the Java Enterprise specification --- a number of things have changes. There is more attention now to simplicity and extensibility, without jeopardizing the enterprise-grade features like transaction support, messaging,... that critical enterprise applications expect.
There is not much that you can do with more expensive application servers that can't be done with GlassFish.
GlassFish is now available in 2 flavors: a
community-supported version and a commercial, Oracle supported
For developers that like to develop on the edge, the community-supported version is great. The source code is free and available, and is very readable. For companies that have critical business running on application server middleware, the commercially supported Oracle GlassFish server is an interesting option. Community support in GlassFish is great, but in some case commercial professional support is desirable. Oracle provides this support on Glassfish, and a growing number of companies (including LodgON) make their expertise with GlassFish available in the form of professional services.
I did some work with a number of Glassfish instances in a cluster, and I'm pretty excited about it. We have a project in the pipeline that will use GlassFish 3.1, and I'm very eager to learn about other professional, large-scale and business-critical deployments on GlassFish.
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