Red Hat has announced its new strategy for the JBoss Java middleware business it acquired in June last year, creating the new JBoss.org community edition and enterprise-focused JBoss Enterprise Platform subscription offerings. It has also announced the acquisition of enterprise information integration vendor MetaMatrix to boost its service oriented architecture story.
Under its founder Marc Fleury, JBoss always played the role of renegade, with Fleury reserving the role of loose cannon in chief. It wasn’t unusual for us to find Fleury sneaking through the back door of a convention hall, or baiting a company like IBM or even Oracle when the latter was rumored to be eying an acquisition.
Make no mistake, Fleury’s ramblings about being a band of a couple dozen developers taking on the Java industry was theater (maybe not great theater, but entertaining enough). Behind that was a method to the madness: 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, JBoss.org has always had more of mercenary open source model than, say, the informal community of Linux or the foundation model of Apache. Vendor-sponsored communities like JBoss.org are created for very mercenary purposes: they could provide great marketing, not to mention adjunct R&D. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Among this week’s spate of announcements coming out of JBoss, the MetaMatrix acquisition is certainly the highlight. But behind the headlines is the formal splitting off of development and productization streams between the JBoss Enterprise Platform and JBoss.org. At the enterprise level, JBoss is formally shedding the .org renegade identity in favor of claim to the next enterprise development stack.
Not that JBoss.org is going away, and as VP of product management Shaun Connolly put it, it will have a different focus than rivals like IBM, whose CE open source product is a toy compared to its commercial offering. JBoss.org will actually be a superset of our enterprise product, he maintained.
But the real emphasis is adding some sanity to the enterprise product, so it doesn’t have to be updated quite so frequently, which eliminates a headache for paying customers.
JBoss also has an ulterior motive: that it, not Eclipse, should become the development stack alternative to Microsoft Visual Studio (recall JBoss’s announcement of its own development portal at EclipseCon last March).
While other Eclipse plug-in contributors are practically 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 might not be the loose cannon it once was, but it still doesn’t want to be part of the crowd.