Kai Wähner (Twitter: @KaiWaehner, Blog: www.kai-waehner.de/blog) is an IT-Consultant in the Java EE, SOA, Cloud Computing and Big Data world. In his real life, he lives in Erlangen, Germany and works for TIBCO (www.tibco.com). Besides solving huge integration problems for large companies, Kai writes articles for magazines and speaks at international IT conferences such as JavaOne. Feel free to contact him via Twitter, LinkedIn or Email. Kai is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 51 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

What is the TCO difference between IBM WebSphere and Open Source JBoss? – Just my two cents…

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Disclaimer: I work for an “open source company”. The following is my personal opinion!

Great Article: “What is the TCO difference between WebSphere and JBoss?”

I have spotted a really great article about comparing prices of open source and proprietary products: “What is the TCO difference between WebSphere and JBoss?“. The interesting aspect is, that this article is written by an IBM-biased company (Prolifics). Usually, only open source vendors write such comparisons. I really like this article, seriously! It is good to see comparisons not only by open source vendors, but also by vendors such as IBM (in this case, Prolifics cannot be considered unbiased, it is an IBM consulting company – but that is fine). I just want to give my two cents to this article in the following…

Features, Performance, Availability?

I definitely agree that proprietary vendors have more features, best performance, and highest availability. So, if I have got a 100 million dollar project, where I need all of these features, and where I have to deploy to 1000s of servers, then IBM (or Oracle or SAG or XYZ) might be a good choice! However, in probably 95 percent of use cases, you do not need ALL features, BEST performance, and HIGHEST availability. You just need to solve your problem! Think about this before deciding for a whole stack of proprietary products.

Regarding some other aspects: I disagree that proprietary products have got better manageability and ease of use.


Production-ready installations for open source products can be done within one day – without a lot of expensive consulting efforts. You cannot install the production-ready Websphere stack in one or two days! It is much more complex. Maybe you can make it to install the development edition in one or two days on your laptop. Maybe…

And what about manageability if there is a missing feature. In an open source product, you are very flexible. You can add or change features as you want. Just change the code. That’s it. As these products usually base on open source projects (e.g. Eclipse or Apache), you find all information you need, including documentation and a large community (which helps for free). If you do not want to change it by yourself, the commercial support will help you quickly and just charge the “consulting days” of implementing the new feature. You will get a new feature in a few days or weeks (depending on its size). Try to get a new feature or a change request from proprietary vendors. Good luck. You have to pay a lot of money and / or wait a very long time!

Ease of Use?

As a developer, you can just download an open source product, use an one-click-installer, and use it. Usually, the product is an unified platform, i.e. you can do everything within the development environment intuitively. You are learning by doing. If you want to use the IBM Websphere stack, you have to install several different products. Yes, they are all “Websphere”, but nevertheless, they are different products with different tooling, based on different technologies and code bases (due to acquisitions).


So again, I really like this comparison from an IBM perspective. Every decision maker should consider both views (in the case of this article JBoss and IBM), and then decide by himself. Both solutions are good, but they differ a lot – not just in pricing! Look at all products deeply, do a proof of concept, then make a decision!

What’s your opinion? Feel free to give a comment…

Best regards,

Kai Wähner (Twitter: @KaiWaehner)

Content from my blog: http://www.kai-waehner.de/blog/2012/12/19/what-is-the-tco-difference-between-ibm-websphere-and-open-source-jboss-just-my-two-cents/

Published at DZone with permission of Kai Wähner, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Jonathan Fisher replied on Mon, 2013/01/21 - 7:20pm

I've used both, I'm happy with neither. WebSphere has a multitude of bugs and face-palm style quirks. There is also a generous helping of legacy or useless features you can't uninstall. The WebSphere console looks like it was built in 1995, but it is very useful, when you're not running into it's own set of bugs. Their 'support' is laughable. On the other hand, JBoss is over-engineered, over-modularized, and over-complicated. The console is pretty useless. It seems to start faster the WAS, and has far fewer quirks, which are usually documented. 

The best option for a happy life in my experience is writing vendor neutral code, then deploy on TomEE or Glassfish, or Jelastic.

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