International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) Tuesday said it has acquired Gluecode Software (search), an open-source firm that helps companies manage business applications on their office computer networks.

Gluecode complements IBM's WebSphere (search) technology for managing business applications across an office network and helps the world's largest computer company compete with its two main application server rivals BEA Systems (BEAS) and JBoss (search).

Financial terms were not disclosed. The deal is the latest in a string of software acquisitions which IBM, the world's second largest software company after Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), has made to fill holes in its existing line-up of software.

IBM plans to allow its customers to download Gluecode software, develop their own application server software, and begin using it — all at no cost. Customers would be expected to buy software support services as needed from IBM. Gluecode's operations will be integrated into IBM's Software Group.

In a time of tight budgets for technology development, El Segundo, Calif.-based Gluecode helps software developers, including ones in small and medium-sized businesses or in departmental-level operations of big companies, build Java applications that run across a range of computer systems.

The software helps reduce application development complexity by pre-integrating many of the most common tools for building Java software, said IBM, which is based in Armonk, N.Y.

Gluecode's core product, known as Joe, takes advantage of open source software managed by the Apache Software Foundation (search). This approach to development is designed to tap the work of thousands of voluntary contributors.

IBM said it will become an active contributor to the Apache Geronimo open source project and will expand the existing community of developers.

WebSphere, IBM's flagship software product, was developed in 1998 by combining IBM's own technologies with software code developed by an earlier Apache software project, an IBM spokesman noted.

The company plans to contribute Gluecode-developed software features back to Apache Geronimo as well, it said.

In addition, IBM said it also will contribute software to the open source community that allows developers to use the popular Eclipse development tools for developing, debugging and deploying Apache Geronimo-based application software.

Gluecode has been backed by venture capital funders Rustic Canyon Partners and Palomar Ventures.