JBoss Grows Up

Under its founder Marc Fleury, JBoss always played the role of renegade, with Fleury reserving the role of enfant terrible in chief. It wasn’t unusual for us to find Fleury sneaking through the back door of a conventional hall, or baiting some giant like IBM or even Oracle when the latter was rumored to be eying an acquisition.

But JBoss, and Fleury, has always had method to their madness. Make no mistake, Fleury’s ramblings about being a band of a couple dozen developers taking on the Java industry was theatre (maybe not great theatre, but entertaining enough). Behind all that, JBoss was a business, not a social cause. And Fleury was intent on carving a sphere of influence, if not an all-out empire.

In that sense, there was a cultural similarity to Red Hat, minus the cult of personality.

Consequently, we have always viewed JBoss.org as having a different open source model than, say, the informal community that spawned Linux, or the foundation model of Apache. Although no vendor will admit it, vendor-sponsored communities like JBoss.org are created not out of altruism, but for mercenary purposes such as market development and adjunct R&D. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Among today’s spate of announcements coming out of JBoss, the Metamatrix acquisition is certainly the headliner. But behind the news is the formal splitting off of development and productization streams between JBoss.com and JBoss.org. JBoss is formally shedding the .org renegade identity in favor of claimant of the next enterprise development stack. Yes, contributions to .org will be encouraged, but the real business is providing enterprises stable releases on the .com side. Time to ratchet things down and gain sanity there.

And, although their technology is (or in the case of the proposed acquisition of Metamatrix, will be) open source, make no mistake, JBoss views Microsoft as its model. Microsoft may not have the best known partners in the universe (exhibit floors at the TechEd and Professional Developer conferences pale compared to JavaOne), but it has a huge devoted developer base that’s not going away anytime soon.

That’s exactly what JBoss is seeking. You may have never heard of Exadel, but if their RichFaces provides the rich client library that’s missing, who cares what their name is. When we talked with JBoss’s Shaun Connolly this afternoon, he spoke of borrowing a page from Microsoft’s book, saluting them for the way they pamper developers.

If you had any doubt of JBoss’s intentions, recall its announcement of its own development portal at EclipseCon last March. While other Eclipse plug-in contributors are tripping over themselves to lead Eclipse projects, JBoss is creating its own parallel universe. Officially it cites license differences: Eclipse uses Apache, while JBoss relies on GPL or LGPL prominent in the Linux community (not to mention its new parent company). But the ulterior motive is setting up a separate developer destination – JBoss just doesn’t want to be one of them.

Announcement of the Metamatrix acquisition today (which would add back end data integration) illustrates how far JBoss still must go in building that Microsoft-killer development stack.

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