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.


TF said...

Look, Oracle successfully destroyed every application server they put into their stack. Why will it be different this time? If BEA drops out of the game, IBM is no viable alternative for development, then the market will push Glassfish and Geronimo even more as a competitor to JBoss. Be prepared, JBoss AS has too little momentum right now.

Shaun Connolly said...

I won't comment much on your Oracle point other than I expect this will further accelerate the migrations from BEA to JBoss that have been occurring over the past few years.

Re: open source competitors. At JBoss, we learned that the rules of the software market resemble a street fight more than a classic boxing ring. Meaning, you've got to stay paranoid to survive.

While I disagree with your momentum point, let me assure you we are always watching out for other alternatives. Javapolis recently posted surveys of App Server usage. Read my blog for details:
JavaPolis, JBoss, and JSF

Gabriel said...

You are correct in the fact that Oracle has never been able to come up with a good app server, seems like they finally gave up and now bought the best app server and middleware on the market.

With Oracle's footprint and marketing reach selling BEA's technology, WebLogic technology will live on and flourish. Oracle will become the dominant JEE vendor. No doubt about it.

TF said...

Shaun, I am following JBoss since 2000/2001 and it has gained a lot of momentum and lost some recently (last 1-2 years). Perhaps it would be a good idea to look into reasons and not to deny it. I am talking to a lot of developers and meet more and more that are disgruntled because their (valid!) patches for known bugs are not accepted.

JBoss may also face a little security nightmare if you guys don't start fixing some stuff on the organizational side. I tried to talk to too many people from JBoss and still nothing happens.

Let's not deny it: from a users point of view JBoss AS has stalled. Back in the days JBoss was the first to fully support new standards. So where is the Java EE 5 compliant server now? How long?

You know why early adopters are flocking to Glassfish. I do see that you struggle to get AS going again. But there is no leading figure any more. The community is ... gone ... ? I don't now ...

What about the JBugs? Any one has taken off so far? How do you support them?

I could go on and on. You have some things to fix. But you can do it if you really want to and start to listen to the "community" again. After that you have a basis for doing business.

Shaun Connolly said...

I'd love to see you come out to JBoss World in Orlando Feb 13 - 15 and check out the community as well as discuss any issues you may be seeing with bug fixes, etc.

Sacha Labourey and Bob McWhirter would be great people to start with to share any thoughts you may have on ways we can improve our community interactions.

Sacha L said...


can you please provide some substance to your "more and more that are disgruntled because their (valid!) patches for known bugs are not accepted"? URL to JIRA please.



Nor said...

I'm sure Al is quaking in his boots. 8.5 billion vs. Jboss's 400 Million? lol.

TF said...

just one example would be
But I don't run around and note down peoples JIRA ticket numbers if they tell me such stories.
Just let me assure you, the projects look at lot more "closed" from the "outside" than back some years ago.
With the mindshare the JBoss has right now you should be roaring ahead. JEMS is great, but don't leave AS behind.

Mikhael said...

I would love to see how JBoss will handle 45 webapps deployed into one ear in addition with 80 Sateless and Statefull EJB. You are still not closer to WebLogic. So stay where you are...