State of the Stack - Open

New Relic & RedMonk datamining reveals encouraging open source trends

Chris Mayer

New Relic lets RedMonk delve into their data and they reveal some interesting industry-wide revelations.

It can’t have escaped your attention that enterprise open source tool adoption is at an all-time high. Previously cautious companies are finally seeing the worth of open source frameworks, servers and so forth, all becoming part of the masterplan. No longer are open source tools merely garnish, or the maple syrup on top of the stack, but the consituent pancakes themselves.

A joint effort from web application performance specialist New Relic and developer-focused analyst RedMonk has uncovered some intriguing aspects into which open source technologies are garnering favour with New Relic’s customerbase. 

Stephen O’Grady, RedMonk’s co-founder, took New Relic’s regular ‘State of the Stack’ feature further this month, looking at a greater cross-section of New Relic’s clients. In previous blogs, O’Grady had examined data generated by their SaaS application performance management tool to extract Ruby-specific insights, but this time round, he looked at Java, PHP and Python to provide a more comprehensive view of which tools were being picked up by New Relic customers specifically, but also to see key trends emerging.


The Java data obtained won’t surprise many, with the de-facto standard Sun JVM procuring nearly 90% of all users. This result didn’t surprise Developer Evangelist at New Relic, Chris Kelly who told us this was ‘expected’.

“It’s still the go-to one. It’s very stable, it’s a great package for reliability and it’s in every package manager and it’s very accessible. The other data we see from Apple – those could be any number of things, anomalies for example. Nobody wants to pay massive licenses to Oracle for the most part so seeing Sun dominate as it is, has a lot to do with its open source nature as well as its position within the industry.”

Kelly added that the JVM’s openness to other languages such as Clojure and JRuby was a big factor in maintaining such a huge share for Sun.

Moving onto Java application servers, it becomes apparent that Tomcat rules the roost here for similar reasons as Sun’s power over the other JVMs. But it’s also interesting to note just how much open source application servers have displaced their commercial counterparts, like Glassfish, WebLogic and so on.

Kelly points out the growing interest in Jetty from O’Grady’s findings as one to watch in the future. He said: “I’m seeing more and more discussion on that, and I think that next year we’re going to see Jetty gain some ground against Tomcat. You can see the dropoff after JBoss. Tomcat is the main contender simply because, again with those dynamic languages, those groups are just now understanding how to tune the JVM and find the right mix. They go with Tomcat because it’s well known but as you gain greater performance, you experiment with things like Jetty.”

This correlates with many other similar surveys lately, that the advanced HTTP Jetty, used in projects like Hadoop, is getting traction with some expert EE developers. As for the commercial offerings, it is unclear how they could possibly gain a bigger imprint into the market – open source servers have a bigger community behind them. Kelly added that the ones getting the most traction ‘are the ones that are innovating and have a development community pushing them forward’.

“Getting the community growing and a faster release cycle – those are things that a developer or operations team are looking for. The longer between releases, the less interesting the product becomes,” said Kelly. Which perhaps suggests that it may be difficult for Oracle’s proprietary offerings to break the mould, and that they should stick to the loyal clientele relying upon something that does the job, and don’t necessarily need an open source tool.

Other Languages provide database insight

O’Grady’s findings from PHP, Python and Ruby are also well worth checking out, and perhaps provide greater insight into which database stores are performing best in this polyglot world.

Whilst MySQL remain kings, it’s interesting to see a host of alternative and NoSQL options gaining reasonable attention from PHP developers, indicative of a wider trend certainly. Kelly believes that in the next couple of years, the game could change, with perhaps PostgreSQL usurping MySQL.

“We’re going to see a lot of growth in Postgres, and a couple behind them. Postgres is offering some features that MySQL doesn’t. Developers into geotracking stuff is going to go into Postgres’s favour.”

He added: ” From a political side of things, the open source community is wary of Oracle and what it’s going to do with MySQL, so there’s going to be a cultural shift towards Postgres. Developers who are really strongly behind open source want control of their software. Oracle technically haven’t done anything wrong but some developers are just hesistant about and want to explore other options.”

It’s obvious that with an array of database choices, developers can now mix and match to find the best storage solution for them.


Whilst this data mining is only from New Relic’s nodes, it does provide a substantial sample of the wider developer community, so it’s fair to say we could extrapolate these findings with some degree of caution. Granted, there’s some weighting towards some technologies over others with New Relic but it shows you just how open source options have pervaded the atmosphere, definitely for the better.

As noted by O’Grady, there’s a high level of fragmentation across the board, but Kelly believes this is a good thing. He said: “The polyglot world we’re moving into means that we’re choosing the tools that we need for the right job. Rather than build everything I want in Ruby, and only Ruby because I’m a Rubyist, now I can use Python for when it is appropriate. I can use the JVM, I can use three databases, in different ways. I think fragmentation is brilliant because we’re no longer being siloed into a psychology of how we have to do it one way, but now we can pick the tools we want to choose.”

We’re certainly interested to see the State of the Stack next year – where perhaps open source might just have cemented its dominance further at New Relic.

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