Which GlassFish version is right for me?

Now that v3 shipped a final version, “prelude” and “preview” are essentially deprecated. Get the real thing here

GlassFish has several versions that you may have heard of. Each one attempts to address different needs. I’ve had several people in the last couple of weeks ask me which one they should use, so here’s a quick list of features and reasons to use one more than the other.

GlassFish v2.1: current JavaEE 5-certified and supported product. Offers centralized admin, clustering. v2.0 was released in September 2007 and v2.1 in March 2009 with the Enterprise Manager value add. All major IDE’s (NetBeans, Eclipse, IntelliJ) have plugins to deploy to this version. GlassFish v2.1 update 3 is the latest version available for supported customers.

GlassFish v3 Prelude: interesting if you want a lightweight Java EE 5 web container (no EJB, JMS, etc…) with admin tools. This is the first release using the modular OSGi architecture, IPS packaging format, and developer features such as preserve session across redeployments. This was released in November 2008 and is a supported product (although not a long-lived as traditional software at Sun). It also offers native deployment of Grails and Rails applications. Some people use this version in development and deploy to v2.1.

GlassFish v3 Preview: while not yet a supported product, this is a more recent version building on the same foundation as the above “Prelude” version, only it now offers both a Web distribution and a full Java EE 6 (Preview) distribution. It has a number of improvements over the “Prelude” version (IPS and updatetool for instance) and certainly much closer to a fully-featured application server. The final version should ship in September 2009 and offer a JavaEE 6, single-instance architecture. At that point this will become a supported product. The centralized administration will come in the v3.1 release which will mean feature parity with v2.1. If you like bleeding edge stuff, promoted builds for v3 are here.

For more details on the releases, including sustaining (restricted) releases, please visit http://blogs.oracle.com/GlassFishForBusiness/

Author: alexismp

Google Developer Relations in Paris.

11 thoughts on “Which GlassFish version is right for me?”

  1. Hi Alexis,
    Thanks for posting this. On the surface it’s kind of hard to understand the difference between V3 Prelude and Preview, especially for those not familiar with Glassfish.
    Maybe this is a candidate for inclusion on the Glassfish main page?

  2. Also rather disapointed by the fact that V3 will not be able to be a replacement for GF 2.1.
    Lacking in centralized administration, which is one of the strong points with GF making it almost on-par with the "big guys" on the market, is hugely disapointing.
    Now GF V3 is not option, let’s just hope that we don’t need to wait too long for 3.1, but that depends on what ORCL decides is the future of GF.

  3. @Barry: Thanks. I’ll follow up with Paul our community manager.
    @Jesper. Yes, I wish we could have had the cycles to do a feature parity in v3 but that’s really hard to combine with the new OSGi kernel and Java EE 6 targets. Note that we do have asadmin and (still with the modular approach) a single domain.xml config file.
    In a sense GlassFish v3 will be very similar to v1 which didn’t have all the bells and whistles from day one. Hopefully the missing features will make their way into the update center, thus not requiring reinstalls or entire full releases.

  4. Support is a two-way street in the open-source community.
    Sunoracle benefits from community patches while the community benefits from corporate backing.
    So, unfortunately, I can’t choose nor recommend to my clients any version of GlassFish as long as Sunoracle holds back patches to "supported customers" only.
    Please open the version control tree directly to the community!
    Turn this into a real open source project. Please!

  5. @Alexis, good. I agree that it’s a shame that V3 does not come with the same clustering and controls like V2.1 but I can imagine that there is such a thing as finishing a product instead of just tacking on more work.
    @Aaron
    Not sure what you mean, the code is in the repository and I believe the only thing Sun does for paying customers is make custom builds and on demand fixes (which will end up in the community tree)

  6. @jesper There was simply too much to do to for GlassFish v3 in the time frame we needed to get it done in, so we split it up into two releases. Since GlassFish is the reference implementation, we didn’t want to delay Java EE 6 until we had time to build in clustering and centralized admin. Note, this is the same approach as we took with GlassFish v1 -> GlassFish v2, so this is not new.
    @aaron The patches are available in the trunk and nightly builds. What Sun offers is a patched stable build and prioritized bug fixes to those who have a subscription.

  7. @jesper – putting aside the impact of Oracle, which we can’t assess, I don’t see a "window of opportunity" issue. I believe GFv2.1 is fully competitive (it is selling like hot pancakes) and there is nothing that is threatening it directly.
    GFv3 is two things: modularity and JavaEE 6. I don’t see anybody going commercial with a JavaEE 6 offering ahead of the v3 family, so the only impact is on the modularity front. The modularity on JBoss 5 (still not yet out commercially, btw) is nowhere as practical as GFv3, and dmServer is far from a practical JavaEE story.
    But maybe I’m missing an angle – what is the window you see closing? Is it just the uncertainty related to the Oracle acquisition closing before GFv3.1 is out?

  8. @Antonio, yes, I see the confusion.
    I think "v3 Preview" should be moved out of the "Work in Progress" section. V3 refers to the promoted builds I was mentioning (we’ve had one every week since J1).

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