Recently I met up with Neelan Choksi, Chief Operating Officer at SpringSource, to discuss their first commercial product offering targeted at large enterprises who require certified, tested and indemnified software and services.
James Sugrue: Could you give me a brief overview of what SpringSource Enterprise is?
Neelan Choksi: There are three main parts to the product:
- Spring Enterprise Edition - the enterprise version of Spring which is certified, warranted and indemnified. This includes the latest bug fixes as well as enterprise-class monitoring integration.
- SpringSource Support - support from the source maximizes production uptime, developer productivity and application performance using Spring
- SpringSource Performance Suite - applications to ensure that customers develop, test and run Spring applications effectively.
Sugrue: What was the motivation for the product?
Choksi: Spring software has been downloaded more than five million times, and is now the ubiquitous platform for applications throughout the world of enterprise Java. With SpringSource Enterprise, customers receive stable, secure and trusted downloads and support directly from the creators of Spring.
SpringSource Enterprise is available as a subscription based service, with three levels (silver, gold and platinum). It’s a natural evolution of where we’ve come as a company. Spring started when Rod Johnson wrote J2EE Development without EJB. From there we became an open source project, and as we grew we became a consulting organisation. We found that the consulting could be mitigated if we provided more training, and now we’ve reached this level of support for our enterprise customers.
Sugrue: With three levels of support, how do you guarantee quality assistance 24/7?
Choksi: The platinum level of support is the highest, which gives a 1 hour response time. We have support engineers based in Canada, Austria and the UK. So we use a “follow the sun model” with our support team spread right across the globe.
Our tier 1 support comprises of about 10 people. But we ensure that our product developers are close to the support team. This ensures that we always have a relevant offering for the community, and also stops any notions of an ivory tower. Product development are 25% customer facing, be that with support, consultancy or sales. This is one of the key parts that makes Spring what it is today – encountering and solving the real problems that customers face.
Sugrue: That’s a really nice model. Where did you get the inspiration for it?
Choksi: Well, McDonalds have done this forever. Everyone from the CEO down has to spend at least some time customer facing, at the tills.
In the earlier years of Spring, Rod would work on consulting and training material as well as product development. He believes that witnessing the full lifecycle is a big part in staying rational and sane. It’s also Rod’s strongest argument against the JCP – there are some specification writers that have never written a J2EE app.
When people join SpringSource, it’s not unusual for them to meet Rod one or two days in. In fact, I remember on new employee pair programming in a bar with Rod just after meeting. Again, it’s a concept of having no ivory towers.
Sugrue: What has the uptake been like so far for SpringSource Enterprise?
Choksi: All the releases have been in beta so far. But the downloads and the feedback has been really good and positive. Support has always been popular and a lot of customers want a portal. Managers want to see how much developers are using it and want access to this knowledge network and see all questions that have been asked.
We’ve bundled four and a half years of experience into the knowledge network.
Sugrue: What do you provide with this that isn't obvious using Spring as an open source tool?
Choksi: The Tool Suite is a combination of Spring IDE, AJDT and Mylyn. The three core open source component provide us with the key difference – it’s like a consultant in a box. Using Mylyn, the knowledge in the developers and support team’s heads is made accessible to you right in your IDE.
With Mylyn as part of the toolsuite you get task focussed help and runtime error analysis with common causes and their appropriate fixes. This results in a massive productivity gain.
Sugrue: SpringSource recently acquired Covalent. How is that working out, and what does it mean for the immediate future?
Choksi: The main point of the acquisition is that we can provide Tomcat support direct to our customers. Covalent is now a SpringSource division, so we can provide HTTP and ActiveMQ support. The combination of Tomcat, Spring and ApacheHTTP drove the deal. It’s a cultural fit.
The size of SpringSource has quadrupled in the last 18 months, so for now we are focussing on the execution of first class support.
Sugrue: When do you expect to release Spring 3.0 and what can we expect to see included?
Choksi: Spring 3.0 is built for Java5, so we take advantage of features like annotations and generics. We will also support the latest version of JavaEE, with things like profiles.
We want the framework to be the core foundation technology for creating web applications over enterprise applications. Spring MVC has been completely rejuvenated. Annotations have brought it to forefront of modern technologies like Ajax.
We’re adding REST support to Spring and adding in a Spring Expression Language, so that you can switch configurations between platforms. There’s no exact date for release available just yet. We plan to have an Early Access build around Q3, with a final release scheduled for Q4.