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Jetty: The Twelve Year Journey to Market Maturity

By Adam Lieber

Normally, I'd redirect content like this (advertising, to be frank) to our NewsBytes team, to be brutally stripped down and turned into a minimal press release [1] - but somehow, perhaps because it seemed a little more sincere than the average product puffery, or perhaps because it's Jetty's birthday, or maybe because it's the holiday season here in the US and I've read a few too many O'Henry stories when I was young - I stopped just short of it. Heck, maybe publishing this will encourage other open source projects to wax lyrical about their particular baby and explain to us all exactly why their hunk of code is so amazingly wonderful.

Sometimes (especially right after I accidentally discover a piece of FOSS software that does exactly what I've desperately needed a program to do, possibly for years), I think that we as a community take this "we don't do $200M advertising campaigns with naked cuties and catchy jingles" attitude too far; there's nothing wrong with at least a few catchy tunes and a naked cutie or two - especially when done by enthusiastic volunteers. Even Linus Torvalds has been known to describe the goal of Linux as "World domination. Fast. [...] and scantily clad females, of course. Who cares if it's below zero outside." So, why not start somewhere?...

[sigh] I'm rambling again. Perhaps I've been proofreading these articles a little too long and it's time for a shot of Nassau Royale. But my point about the cuties - with or without some jammin' music - remains; any FOSS project that can play a jingle and show some wiggle (well, OK, it's also got to be a good project, but there's LOTS of those) is sure to be wildly popular, and I'm officially pinning my hopes to seeing it in the near future. Legacy software won't have a leg to stand on. :)
Ben Okopnik, Editor-in-Chief

Jetty was written as a lightweight Java web and application server and in many ways it has been ahead of its time. Jetty with Cometd handles two-way communications via a method known as long-polling which allows servers to efficiently handle requests in an environment where constant or long-lived communication is needed between the server and the client.

Each month, Jetty grows in number of users and market share. With the rise of rich Internet applications and the need for increased embeddability, Jetty has become increasingly popular and is on track to become the leading Web and application server. To celebrate its 12th year, here are 12 things that are interesting about Jetty:

1. Jetty was originally written as an issue tracker application

1995 – America was in a media frenzy over the OJ Simpson murder trial, Microsoft had released Windows 95, and at Mort Bay Consulting Limited in Australia, Greg Wilkins created what was possibly the first Java web application, an issue tracking system served over HTTP from a Java server. It soon became apparent that there was a lot more interest in the HTTP server within the issue tracking application than in the application itself. By 1996, the HTTP server was spun out as an early form of Jetty.

2. Jetty was originally named MBServler

Named for Mort Bay, an area of Sydney, the first itineration of Jetty was called Mort Bay SERVLet servER, or MBServler for short. The leading figures behind Jetty, Greg Wilkins and Jan Bartel, were not entirely happy with this. “We changed it to Jetty pretty quickly,” says Wilkins. The Mort Bay logo is an image of Sydney Harbour which includes a small jetty. As the word jetty started with a J, it was picked as the new name for the Java web server.

3. Jetty has frequently broken tests that try to benchmark it

Jetty breaks most benchmarking tools, as it is designed to scale to many thousands of simultaneous requests and connections. Most HTTP benchmarking tools do not support the asynchronous features needed to scale to such levels and thus bottleneck at a few hundred or a thousand connections. Jetty now includes an asynchronous HTTP client that was written initially just to be able to test tens of thousands of simultaneous requests and connections.

4. More people are using Jetty than you might think

Jetty is used by a huge number of brands and applications. In fact, many people use Jetty and don’t even realize it. Eclipse, BEA WebLogic Event Server, Apache Geronimo, Zimbra, IBM Tivoli Netview, Sybase EA Server, IGN.com and Chess.com all use Jetty behind the scenes. In fact, the first WiFi access provided at Starbucks was handled by a proxy based on Jetty. Apache Maven also works great with Jetty. And there are many more – a full list can be found at http://docs.codehaus.org/display/JETTY/Jetty+Powered

5. Hundreds of thousands of domains are active on Jetty

Netcraft is a company that provides research and analysis on numerous aspects of the internet. Netcraft makes it possible to see how many instances of Jetty are directly linked to the Internet, as opposed to behind a firewall. According to the company, there are hundreds of thousands of domains active on Jetty – and this is very likely to be a conservative estimate.

6. Jetty was designed backwards

One of the reasons that Jetty is so prevalent is that it was designed to be a good software component, and it happens to also be a software container. Jetty embeds so well that it is often completely hidden, while other Web servers are primarily software containers and not designed to be embedded within other applications. While they can be embedded in applications, the applications more often than not take on the shape of the Webserver rather than vice versa.

7. Jetty proves that size matters

Jetty’s small size makes it perfect for providing Web services to all applications – even those on handheld devices. Because of its small footprint, Jetty leaves more memory and cache free to be allocated to running the application rather than running the server.

8. Jetty is the first server for Google Android

Jetty will be the first server available for Google’s Android mobile platform, in the form of i-Jetty. i-Jetty will allow users to turn their phone into a server, and broadcast and share videos and photos on their phones. Users will also have the ability to manage their phones from their computer desktop. Essentially, i-Jetty and Android will give mobile phone users much more control and flexibility over their devices.

9. Jetty is open source

That Jetty is open source is no secret – it is, in fact, its calling card and the people behind it believe passionately that open source methods are the best way to produce quality software that is well targeted to users' needs. There is no better way for various people to collaborate, both in development, and in discussion of requirements. It was the right decision, as the number of Jetty users and developers today shows.

10. Jetty is an important component in Eclipse

Jetty handles the help system in the open source Eclipse software platform. Eclipse projects are hosted by the Eclipse Foundation, a non-profit organization whose members include IBM, Oracle, Intel, and Nokia.

11. Jetty is a record breaker

Earlier this year, Yahoo broke the record for the fastest sort of a terabyte of random data. The record was achieved by one of Yahoo’s Apache Hadoop clusters, in which Jetty was a crucial component. The new record stands at 209 seconds, compared to the previous record of 297 seconds.

12. Jetty is supported by Webtide

The Jetty community is based at http://www.mortbay.org. However, the founders of Mort Bay realized that a successful open source project needs commercial input and support, as a member of the community, to work with "the" community. So webtide.com was founded to provide commercial support and development provider for Jetty.

Jetty has evolved a great deal over the years, from a poorly named bug tracker to the flexible software it is today. It keeps growing, breaking records and benchmarks and moving into interesting new areas such as Web 2.0, gaming and mobile apps. It is poised to keep growing, because the community continues to thrive, with up to 20 people developing it at any given moment. The future is not just secure for Jetty, it’s positively buoyant.

"You had to admire the way perfectly innocent words were mugged, ravished,
stripped of all true meaning and decency, and then sent to walk the gutter
for Reacher Gilt, although 'synergistically' had probably been a whore from
the start."
 -- Terry Pratchett, "Going Postal"

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Adam Lieber is the CEO of Webtide. Adam was a co-founder of Gluecode Software, one of the early open source software companies and delivered solutions to numerous industries and served as Gluecode's representative on OASIS. After Gluecode's acquisition by IBM, Adam ran worldwide sales for open source middleware for IBM.

Prior to Gluecode, Adam was at the IT-focused venture capital fund Mission Ventures.

Adam received his A.B. in Economics concentration, with Computer Science from Princeton University.

Copyright © 2008, Adam Lieber. Released under the Open Publication License unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 157 of Linux Gazette, December 2008