Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Future of Open Source

Matt Asay ponders "what happens to the open-source development community if the world moves to cloud-based computing?".

His blog provides an interesting angle on a discussion I had over the weekend with my 12 year old son.

My son is hooked on the ROBLOX Virtual Playworld, which is a free online Multiplayer game where you play in user-created worlds with blocks. When I asked my son what he likes about Roblox, he said: "Roblox combines Legos and scripting...two of my favorite things!". My reaction was "Scripting? Show me what you mean.".

So he proceeded to show me Roblox Studio, a development environment where you can create your own customized "Place" and publish it to the Roblox servers. It's actually a pretty cool development environment. Roblox enables you to customize the behavior of elements in your virtual world via the open source Lua scripting language.

For example, you can add special "admin" doors to buildings that only let in people with the right permissions. Actually, my son likes setting up the door so all people without the necessary permissions explode upon contact with the door. Typical 12 year old. :-)

Anyhow, there's extensive online help, a community forum, a developer's blog, and the ability to freely share Places, Objects, and Scripts.

It is cool to watch my son develop his online world; he scours through the shared online scripts, grabs a script that sort of does what he wants, modifies it to suit his needs, tests and perfects it, then uploads it to the server. He laughs out loud when one of his friends explodes upon contact with his new "admin" door.

So I will ask a question in response to Matt's original question:
Is Roblox, and other online destinations like it, grooming the next generation of open source developers?

I wrote "ROBLOX Redux" in response to a followon blog written by one of the ROBLOX developers that details the corallary between the ROBLOX model and the open source model.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A BEA-utiful Week

I've heard that Larry likes to play with his food before he eats it, so I was not surprised to see Oracle finally tuck into its latest meal: Oracle to Buy BEA Systems for $8.5 Billion.

The demise of BEA as a standalone company is actually bittersweet for me since I've been competing with BEA since 2000. Back then I was one of the Bluestone crew. We had a GREAT team and GREAT technology and competed vigorously against BEA. IBM was barely a blip on the middleware radar screen.

January 2001, we got bought by HP. We had a company meeting at a local hotel where Kevin Kilroy, Bluestone CEO, and Bill Russell, VP/GM HP Software, announced the news. I vividly remember Kevin's inspirational statement "We're going to bury BEA in the parking lot!". We were all excited at the opportunity to accelerate the fight against BEA and dominate the market.

In July 2002, HP announced that it was abandoning middleware and mothballed all the great Bluestone technology. I left HP shortly afterwards eager to leave the middleware market behind. [interesting note: In Dec 2005, JBoss obtained rights to open source the ArjunaTS technology, which was a key piece of the Bluestone stack.]

But then, this little thing called open source began to change the game in the software market. Marc Fleury and the GREAT core JBoss minds were building the JBoss Application Server and it was being downloaded like crazy.

In 2004, Bob Bickel, Tom Leonard, and Joe McGonnell (all around great guys from the Bluestone days) were at JBoss and looking to ramp up the team. They reached out to Rich Friedman and me. This open source stuff really looked like a game changer and frankly I still had a bad taste in my mouth over how the Bluestone thing played out.

So, I signed up for Round 2 against BEA. The chance to fight alongside some of the old Bluestone crew, as well as guys like Marc Fleury, Sacha Labourey, Rob Bearden, Brad Murdoch and the talented core JBoss developers was just too good to pass up.

At JBoss, we loved it when Alfred Chuang continually downplayed the impact of JBoss on BEA's business. It just added fuel to our quest to provide more and more value in our JBoss Enterprise Middleware portfolio and help free customers from the shackles of vendors like BEA. Since 2004, we've built out a full middleware stack: multiple platforms, developer tools and frameworks, management tools, etc. all powered by our great open source projects at

I kinda like Bob Pasker's take on things in his "JBoss and possibly Tomcat should never have happened":

  • "While BEA was looking “up” at its biggest competitor IBM, JBoss was busily undercutting BEA at the bottom end."
  • "JBoss launched an innovators dilemma attack against BEA, not with a revolutionary product, but with a revolutionary business model, one that BEA couldn’t hope to copy without cannibalizing its existing revenue stream. BEA fell right into the trap."
In many respects, the middleware game was BEA's to lose. They were the 800LB gorilla back in 2002. I definitely left Round 1 of that fight battered and bruised.

In many respects, IBM and JBoss ganged up on BEA in Round 2. While this round has spanned a few years, the standalone BEA has finally toppled.

Gotta love a great fight!

My blog above was taken by Bob Pasker as gloating and disrespectful of BEA. Bob wrote Respect your Competitors and Its Not About Open Source as followups. Since Bob was co-founder of Weblogic, I respect and appreciate his reaction; hence my choice to update my blog entry.

I feel compelled to reiterate "The demise of BEA as a standalone company is actually bittersweet for me". I didn't say this just to say this; this is how I feel. I will miss competing with BEA as a standalone business. Moreover, BEA will not be going away or closing their doors; they have been acquired by Oracle. So I don't view what I say above as kicking sand in someone's face when they're down.

Bottom-line: I wrote my blog above as a way to capture the fact that BEA has played a significant role in my work life for the past 8 years. And I consider Oracle's acquisition of BEA as signifying an end of an important era.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Heineken DraughtKeg and JBoss Developer Studio

Zack Urlocker's article - Heineken: Disrupting a Commodity Business - combines two of my favorite subjects; disruptive business models and beer. Zack describes that "instead of trying to innovate based on a new flavor or new style of brewing, Heineken focused on creating a packaging system that provides a better customer experience", a la the Heineken DraughtKeg.
The focus was on "improving the experience, accessibility or convenience of a product", and "Development of the DraughtKeg took Heineken nearly 10 years and it cost them more than $15 million dollars to build a new production line."

There's some similarity between what Heineken has done and what we at JBoss have done with our new JBoss Developer Studio. We're not focused on changing the key "flavors" (open source project technologies). Instead, we are focused on integrating our technologies in a way that improves customer experience. This kind of effort requires investments above and beyond the creation of the key ingredients.

JBoss Developer Studio has been created for our customers interested in having an out-of-box developer desktop that works seamlessly with our JBoss Enterprise Application Platform. JBDS includes fully integrated and tested Eclipse plug-ins, JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, and an entitlement to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. RHEL is optional, of course, since JBDS also runs on Windows, but it's great for anyone interested in leveraging RHEL 5 for virtualizing their developer machines (ex. emulate n-tier architecture on a single developer's box)...which is pretty cool.

JBDS is available as a $99 software-only subscription, and the support is decoupled from it so we can keep that price low and affordable. Our Red Hat Developer Professional goes for $3500 and that provides developer support and access to ALL of our certified distributions including JBDS, JBoss EAP, JBoss Portal, JBoss jBPM, JBoss Rules, our upcoming SOA Platform, as well as Red Hat Enterprise Linux. So...a ton of bits...and developer support in the use of any/all of the bits.

JBDS may not appeal to all developers...just like the Heineken DraughtKeg may not appeal to all beer drinkers out there. So, folks who prefer to consume our community technology in an a la carte manner by combining Eclipse, our JBoss Tools projects, JBoss AS, JBoss Seam, etc. with community support, they can continue to do so.

Bottom-line: Customer/user choice is key. At JBoss, we are focused on creating great technologies at and integrating our technologies in a manner that provides real customer value with JBoss Enterprise Middleware.

Now off I go for another pint of Heineken from the DraughtKeg in my fridge.!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 4.3 is here!

On Tuesday January 8, our awesome JBoss development team released JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 4.3. Kudos to the entire team for another great effort!

JBoss EAP 4.3 was a customer-driven release. The top two requests from our JBoss EAP 4.2 customers were to upgrade our messaging and web services technologies, and the team delivered.

JBoss Messaging provides a high performance messaging infrastructure and is a fantastic upgrade over the prior JBossMQ component. While JBossMQ has served us well over the past few years, JBoss Messaging is now the messaging architecture for JBoss EAP 4.3, 5.0, and beyond.

JBoss Web Services now fully supports JAX-WS which will really satisfy many of our customers. This also further rounds out our Java EE 5 capabilities.

JBoss EAP 4.3 includes JBoss AS, Hibernate, JBoss Seam, and many other components; more details can be found at

JBoss EAP 4.3 has been tested with many different operating systems and databases; more details can be found at

Documentation and Release Notes can be found at

For existing customers, the new release is available on both the JBoss Customer Support Portal and Red Hat Network.

Subscriptions for JBoss Enterprise Application Platform are immediately available directly from Red Hat, on the Red Hat Store, or from Red Hat resellers. For more information, visit