Once again, we have had the opportunity to be involved in a really cool (and open source!) project. SpringSource approached me a few months ago to help build out a new community on behalf of the Apache Tomcat community.
The site launched this morning, along with a press release by SpringSource. This was an interesting project for many reasons.
First of all, sheer impact on the size of the potential community. Apache Tomcat is the world’s most widely used Java application server, powering at least 75% of all java-based websites. With more than two-thirds of large enterprises relying on java applications to power their business, including more than 400 out of the Fortune 500, there is constant pressure to provide infrastructure that is cost-effective, and easily supportable. Certainly with such immense popularity for Tomcat in any enterprise, there is domain expertise in the market. However there lacks any single source to consolidate that information specifically for enterprise users.
This brings me to the second point, of how to build a community that isn’t duplicated and isn’t technically “owned” by the project itself. The tomcat.apache.org site offers a wealth of documentation and open mailing lists, and is currently the best source for general information on Apache Tomcat. Our goal is to create a complimentary community for the enterprise class users, who rely on Apache Tomcat to power their business, with information, advice and discussions from experts who are experienced at deploying applications at scale with minimal downtime.
In order to effectively build out a complimentary community, it was critical to keep the community neutral as well as not duplicate any content that currently exists on the official site from the ASF. Although sponsored by SpringSource, content on the TomcatExpert.com site is managed by a team of Apache Tomcat committers and recognized java development experts from several companies which helps to keep it neutral. Known on the site as Tomcat Expert Contributors, these experts act as a quality control board to ensure only the best information is reaching the Tomcat Expert community. Essentially, they ensure that all answers on the site are “sanitized” for the enterprise user. Additionally, the only people actually from SpringSource who are Contributors are also Committers on the Apache project, which helps to keep content very balanced between TomcatExpert.com and the ASF.
The site format for TomcatExpert.com breaks content into three sections:
- Blog. Best practices, insights and news on the latest innovations and deployments using Apache Tomcat directly from our team of Contributors. Initial topics will include high concurrency connection pooling, a detailed series on cost justification, assessing candidates and moving applications from a commercial JEE app server to Tomcat, analysis of management and operations tools, as well as publicizing the features and thought behind Tomcat 7.
- Knowledge Base. Published history of over 10 years of common enterprise customer support cases.from the SpringSource archive. This resource initially has about 35 articles and presentations loaded, and will continue to expand over time.
- Ask the Expert. Forum where enterprise users submit questions to be answered directly by the Tomcat Expert Contributors. This is different from the Apache mailing lists in that the question queue is not open for anyone to answer. Only contributors, our validated Tomcat Experts, will provide the answer, so answers you get will come from a qualified expert. Comments are open for the community to weigh in, of course.
Finally, another reason to be excited by this project is that it is backed by SpringSource, which should excite users because they have both the history and reputation of making huge contributions to the Apache Tomcat project successful. SpringSource has built a business all around deploying web applications at scale and leveraging open source. A couple years ago, Spring acquired Covalent, a company that was built to be a professional support organization for Tomcat. They have over 10 years of domain expertise of deploying and supporting Apache Tomcat in enterprises of all sizes. Much of that company expertise is being poured into a public site for the first time. Additionally, SpringSource has a long history of being a principal contributor to the Apache Tomcat project, with SpringSource employees having been responsible for 95 percent of the bug fixes to Apache Tomcat in the past two years and are also currently leading the community project for Tomcat 7.0, due out this spring.
We are going to continue to build out more content and functionality to the site over the next few weeks. So stay tuned! For now however, I want to offer a huge round of congratulations to the entire team that helped bring this vision to fruition: Shannon, Linda, Joanna, Charlie, the Matts, Giorgio, Andy, Filip and Mark. It has been a great group effort. Thank you!