Lies, damned lies, and statistics: EE edition

2 minute read

I came across some figures regarding downloads of Glassfish and JBoss AS that really puzzled me. Basically Glassfish was downloaded 700.000 times a month (end of '08) while JBoss AS was only downloaded around 115.000 times a month at the same. My first reaction was "Well done to you, Sun!" and then I realized that the gap was too good to be true. Let's have a look at these numbers.

For JBoss AS, the Sun team has only counted the direct number of downloads out of SourceForge. That's public knowledge by the way, go there for the JBoss stats.

For Glassfish (according to this), downloads numbers (not public BTW) come from:

Surprisingly, no stats on the direct number of downloads from the Glassfish project page. Let's analyze that a bit.

JDK bundles is the thing downloaded even by my grand'ma by accident. I can tell you right there, she has never ever used Glassfish ( nor JBoss ;) ). How many times, did I download the whole enchilada while I just wanted the plain old JDK!

Java EE SDK. This one is hard. Of course, people interested in EE will go download this package. Are they interested in GF? Hard to say. On the other hand providing a SDK without runtime will do no good.

NetBeans. I'm surprised at the popularity of NB, but there it is. Are all NB users actually GF users? BTW NB also comes with a JDK bundle but I don't know if this bundle also bundle GF :)

Let's call this strategy the Russian doll statistic generation strategy. Frankly, that's not very honest for your users and customers to use this strategy and then compare apple to oranges with your competition. When someone downloads JBoss AS, for sure he did not do it by accident (thanks to SourceForce's sense of UI :) )

So we have two strategies here, JBoss could start playing the Russian doll statistics generation strategy and we can be pretty good at it:

  • include JBoss AS in Fedora and count it
  • include JBoss AS in RHEL and count it (Dell, IBM and the like are pretty good at delivering RHEL on their hardware)
  • include JBoss AS in IcedTea and count it
  • include JBoss AS in JBoss Tools and count it
  • include JBoss AS Core in JBoss ESB, Portal etc etc and count it
  • include the number of downloads from our maven repository (with the number of times you have to nuke your local repo that will be a big hit :) )
  • I've only added a few ideas but for sure our marketing guys can be more productive

Of course we won't do that. An alternative strategy would be for the Glassfish team to only display their direct download numbers (the one they fail to display) and stop using bogus charts in their public and private slides.

On a side note, I find it disappointing that open source projects don't keep their stats open and preferably via a third party provider like SourceForge. Granted the SF stats are somewhat flaky but it keeps everyone honest with their own (lack of) success.

Disclaimer: I am not saying Glassfish is not a success, I am quite happy to have them as coopetitors on the server market in general and Java EE in particular.