Terracotta, an open source Java caching vendor, announced it has acquired EHCache earlier this week.  This is interesting for two reasons.  No, it’s not because I thought EHCache was a Canadian company because of the “Eh” in their name.

EHCache provides an alternative approach to Java caching than Terracotta’s approach.  While Terracotta’s approach can be at the JVM layer without application changes, the EHCache approach requires the application be modified with caching in mind.  Terracotta founder and CTO, Ari Zilka, explains the benefits of the combined company:

“Terracotta’s interface in more than 50% of use cases has been EHCache. Basically, developers design applications to use EHCache and use Terracotta’s EHCache clustering module to get massive scale and high availability at runtime.

The two together will provide the most seamless path from 1 node up to 100. Instead of having to worry about which version of EHCache Terracotta supports, or if your EHCache integration will work well with Terracotta, EHCache’s and Terracotta’s users alike can rest assured the two will always work in perfect harmony from today forward.”

The second interesting aspect of this acquisition, and not mentioned by Ari, the combined company looks much more attractive to VMware/SpringSource.  IBM WebSphere eXtreme Scale Chief Architect Billy Newport had predicted that VMware would acquire Terracotta after news of the SpringSource acquisition hit the wire.  Billy may be on to something.  Terracotta can offer both an unintrusive caching solution that could be married alongside future JVM work that VMware is sure to do, and also offers a caching API that could find its way into SpringSource products. Smart move on Terracotta’s part.  Although, to be fair, this acquisition was in the works before the SpringSource acquisition was made public.

Terracotta is positioning the acquisition as a major competitive coup versus the likes of Oracle Coherence, GigaSpaces and WebSphere eXtreme Scale.  Leaders from Oracle Coherence and WebSphere eXtreme Scale had a more measured response:

Oracle Coherence’s Cameron Purdy commented:

“Competition is good, and Terracotta has a different approach that may prove to help with some needs that had gone unaddressed by products such as our own (Oracle Coherence). Greg’s got a good track record with ehcache and now he’s getting paid to do what he loves. While the competitive hyperbole is silly, I nonetheless find it flattering that we (collectively) are building technology and businesses that have gone from niche to central in enterprise software (despite all the competition, our business continues to grow at “ludicrous speed”), and I find it even more flattering that companies want to compare to and compete with the product that I work on :-)”

WebSphere eXtreme Scale’s Billy Newport commented:

I agree with Cameron, competition is good and while we’ve (from an IBM WebSphere eXtreme Scale point of view) previously only seen Terracotta on small setups (2 nodes or so), I’m sure the new capabilities (static striping etc) and that it fits into EHCache which has a lot of prewritten adapters in open source software will mean we see more of him :)  It’s all good for growing the market and increasing customer awareness. “

As Cameron and Bill point out, the acquisition is definitely goodness for customer awareness and adoption.  To date, the market has been dominated by commercial products.  However, open source vendors such as Terracotta and GridGain want to change that.  Interesting times ahead.

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