Webtide (Jetty) acquisition a shrewd move by Intalio

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The Intalio acquisition of Webtide, the company behind the popular open source Jetty web container, seems interesting and perhaps a bit under-reported, having been drowned out in the news from the big VMworld and JBoss conferences taking place. There are certainly folks in a better position to provide in-depth analysis (any thoughts @billynewport, @johnrrymer or @mjasay?), but it strikes me that there is an interesting strategic back-story here, if not interesting implications for the Java cloud platform space.

I’ve come across Intalio from time-to-time over the years, the first time back in 2003 on a BPM market research project for Plumtree. At the time they were a pure-play BPM player with interesting technology. Now they bill themselves as “The Private Enterprise Cloud Company” (ahem) and offer a curious array of products ranging from a hardware “cloud appliance” to BPM to CRM.

For those not familiar with Jetty, it is one of the more popular web containers for Java, second only to Tomcat in installed base (though hard numbers are elusive). The web container is a key component of the stack for Java web apps and Jetty has been baked into a number of Java cloud offerings including Google App Engine.

What makes this interesting for cloud-watchers is the fact that SpringSource, just acquired by VMware, has a controlling influence over Tomcat through its prior acquisition of Covalent. With VMware talking up an aggressive push into the Java PaaS market, this puts them at odds with Google over GAE (which uses Jetty), Stax (which uses Tomcat) and others*. And there are have already been rumblings within the Tomcat community accusing SS of holding back features/fixes for the open source product in favor of their commercial offerings.

So, by my calculations, Jetty becomes a bit of a hot commodity in all this, making the timing of Webtide’s sale to Intalio curious. Hopefully they got a great deal; they’d seemingly have had much to gain by waiting for more favorable market conditions but I guess that’s usually the case.

Also potentially quite the shrewd move on the part of Intalio, who has inserted themselves into the middle of a quickly growing and high-visibility segment of the cloud market. (I know none of the details, it could in fact be a horrible move 😉

Aside: There’s an interesting side story about the recent spate of acquisitions of commercial open source companies in the Java tools space. Cloud Foundry to SpringSource, EHcache to Terracotta, and now Jetty/Webtide to Intalio. These were all very small shops. Is the long economic winter taking its toll on open source developers?

  • disclosure: including, to a limited extent, my employer – Appistry – whose CloudIQ Platform is a self-hosted PaaS offering supporting both Java and .NET
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