One of the good (and surprising) things is how much of the infastructure to run Enterprise Java Applications that you can get for free. You may decide to go for an all commercial offering, but just knowing that you could switch to open software keeps the vendors honest and quality standards in the industry high. Open products are available for everything, from the web browser to the web and application server, through to the operating system to run whole thing!
The one exception to this is Databases. Yes, MySql is a very good product , and is getting better all the time especially as version 5 will have enterprise features such as triggers and procedures. But could you honestly recommend a switch from Oracle to MySql? Come to think of it, could recommend a switch between any of the big 3 (Sybase , Oracle and Microsoft Sql Server?) – Java people talk about being ‘Database Neutral’, but the reality is that the disruption of switching outweights the costs involved.
All of which makes the latest announcement from Oracle all the more interesting .. Oracle have just announced a MySql competitor in for the form of Oracle 10g Express. It’s in pretty much the same space as MySql (ideal for web projects, new projects, lightweight projects’ and is free to use and distribute. Where it does have the edge is (a) people can use it to learn Oracle skills and (b) a reduced cost of migration to the ‘real’ version of Oracle.