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One of the hardest hit areas in IT during any slowdown is application development and application stack infrastructure -- application servers, clustering software, caches, databases, etc. During tough times, most application expansions are put on the back burner, and anything that does not have an immediate impact on revenue or cash expenses is placed on hold.

This year's slowdown is no exception. Most of our customers continue to pursue critical projects with a renewed focus on reducing costs in the application stack. Their business needs are not going away, and in fact the end users our customers serve are even more demanding in times like this. Bottom line: everyone needs to be able to do more with less.

Much of the time, the most scrutinized components are understandably the most expensive -- application servers and databases, meaning the software for these functions and the hardware kit needed to run it. On a per CPU or per server basis, the license fees for proprietary database and application servers can be tens of thousands of dollars, with extra thousands added for various upgrades to enterprise functionality. One customer company recently revealed to us the pricing it endures from a certain proprietary database vendor and said, "Please, help us reduce this cost!" Not only are license costs high, but in many cases these proprietary products drive unnecessary hardware purchases, which subsequently increases the concomitant expense of facility and energy costs associated with running servers, as well as the expense of network hardware needed to connect them together.

Fortunately, the industry has made tremendous progress since the last economic recession, both in terms of technology and business model innovation. The enterprise can now turn to products that drive these costs down and help everyone successfully survive the current downturn. For example, today there are excellent open source alternatives to the monolithic JEE application servers, including WebLogic. Indeed, lightweight components like Spring, Jetty and Tomcat not only save upfront costs but can save significant development and ongoing maintenance effort. Similarly, open source databases such as MySQL, when complemented by high performance in-memory data management solutions like distributed caches and network attached memory, can take the handling of certain types of data completely out of proprietary databases. This can save a considerable amount in license fees and ongoing support costs in many organizations, and usually eliminates an expensive performance bottleneck.


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