Open-source web services startup WS02 has launched its first product, Tungsten, and taken a $4 million investment from Intel's venture capital arm.

Intel Capital invested in other open-source players, including database company MySQL as well as Zend and JBoss.

WS02 wants to compete with existing middleware players such as JBoss, in the open-source arena and IBM and BEA in the proprietary space. Tungsten, is an application server based on Apache Axis2 web services and integrating other Apache software projects, and costs from $3,000 for a maximum of two servers.

Tungsten can be used on its own as an alternative, or as an overlay to JBoss, IBM's WebSphere or BEA's AquaLogic, said Sanjiva Weerawarana, WS02 founder, chairman and chief executive officer.

The initial version can be added to an Apache Tomcat or a JBoss Application Server to improve or extend their support for XML. In the future, WS02 plans overlays for AquaLogic and WebSphere.

The first release of Tungsten is a Java version, with a C release due out in August.

WS02 wants to offer middleware that "in its heart and gut is designed to support an entire SOA," Weerawarana said. SOA, or service-oriented architecture, is a way to create and manage IT systems through reusable software and services.

JBoss, now owned by Linux distribution vendor Red Hat, has already dubbed itself the supplier of open-source middleware for building SOAs. "That's like taking a pig and putting lipstick on it," Weerawarana said, claiming that JBoss middleware is too tightly tied into Java and focused on a customer's internal application integration, not their external application integration needs as enabled by XML.

WS02 intends to set up hosting of its software within a week so that developers can try out Tungsten and future software and tools on its Oxygen Tank developer portal.

From its founding in August 2005, Weerawarana and his colleagues have run WS02 on three continents with the start-up's headquarters in Colombo, Sri Lanka, along with offices in Boston in the US and Portsmouth in the UK. The company has 28 employees.

The company's tagline is "oxygenating the web services platform," hence its name with the WS standing for web services and the O2 for oxygen. The startup also looked to the periodic table of elements for inspiration on product names and came up with Tungsten, a metal with the symbol "W."

Future products will be called after other metals beginning with T, Weerawarana said, hence Titanium and Tellurium. The company's Titanium integration server/enterprise service bus should be available in the third quarter of this year, then the Tellurium server-side mashup platform is due out in the second quarter of 2007.

Tom Lehrer fans will know that the company's product range could become quite extensive, with Tantalum, Technetium, Terbium, Thallium, Thorium, Thulium and last but not least, Tin.