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 JBoss.org.
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, 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!
UPDATE ON JANUARY 20, 2008:
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.