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JBoss releases developer edition

JBoss Group, the Atlanta-based open-source company, last week released a new developer edition of its popular application server, amid continuing controversy surrounding the product's lack of certification as J2EE compliant.

Although JBoss is not currently certified by Java-creator Sun Microsystems as J2EE compliant, the company claims its application server supports the J2EE 1.3 specification, which means that J2EE-compliant app servers can be ported to JBoss without extensive modifications.

The company is billing JBoss 4.0 as a step "Beyond J2EE."

"We are targeting deep IT development, systems administrators, as well as ISVs, with this release," Marc Fleury, president and founder of JBoss Group, told Programmers Report. "And the technology that we are excited about is AOP."

The AOP (aspect-oriented programming) model was developed nearly a decade ago at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). JBoss 4.0 represents the company's first attempt at an AOP framework.

AOP allows the global properties of a program to determine how it is compiled into an executable program. Traditional units of modularity in programming languages include objects, functions, modules and procedures. However, some functions can't be encapsulated in single modules; instead, their implementations end up scattered across the class hierarchy. AOP programming deals with new units of modularity, called "aspects," that involve more than one functional component, such as synchronization, integrity control, persistency and interaction. Aspects can't be neatly separated using traditional units of modularity.

Put another way, code relating to aspects is often expressed as small code fragments tangled and scattered throughout several functional components. Because of the way they cross module boundaries, it is said that aspects "crosscut" the program's hierarchical structure. Aspects encapsulate crosscutting concerns.

"We believe that [AOP] is the next logical systems steps," Fleury said. "I stress systems as opposed to the broader AOP, which aims to bring AOP to all development. We are focused on a very specific strand of software development, which is systems development, application server development. There we found that the applications of AOP are breathtaking."

JBoss' AOP framework will allow developers to write simple Java objects and then apply more sophisticated enterprise functions later in the development process, Fleury explained, turning those programs into J2EE applications. JBoss 4.0 also reduces complexity by allowing developers to apply services such as transactions, persistence, remoteness and cache replications without creating Enterprise JavaBeans, he said.

Critics have charged that Sun is blocking attempts to certify the JBoss app server, which competes with commercial application servers from BEA Systems, IBM, Sun Microsystems and others. Mike Loukidies, senior editor for tech book publisher O'Reilly, writing in an editorial published in March, called JBoss "one of the best J2EE servers around, at any price." Moreover, he called on Sun to establish "a level playing field in which all Java developers, regardless of their funding or licensing requirements, can participate."

"If JBoss can't be certified because Sun won't test it," he wrote, "then certification is meaningless."

JBoss' Fleury has himself charged Sun with holding up the certification process. For its part, JBoss is not relying on Sun, Fleury said. He said that he is in negotiations with Sun, though he has said that Sun officials wouldn't meet with him to discuss the issue.

"We don't have the Java brand because it's owned by Sun," Fleury said. "And so far, we've been unsuccessful negotiating to get it."

Sun insists that it has given JBoss the opportunity to take its tests and to certify the JBoss product. The company claimed in March that it extended an offer to JBoss to license the test suite and charged the company with "abusing the media" with its claims of Sun's stonewalling.

Because it is open-source software, JBoss is available at no charge. The JBoss Group derives revenue on services to support the software, Fleury said.

Fleury said JBoss is not waiting around for Sun's seal of approval to release the full version of the new app server. The final production version of JBoss 4.0 is due in Q4/2003.

In other JBoss news, several executives from JBoss Group have publicly announced the termination of their contracts and their intention to launch a new company called Core Developers Network (CDN). The group unofficially hung out its shingle last week with a preliminary, online launch of the company, which, according to two of its founders, was established to support enterprise open-source Java software.

According to co-founders Dain Sundstrom and Jeremy Boynes, Core Developers Network was established so that they and their five partners could focus on the integration of open-source projects, rather than on the JBoss application server alone, which is the business model of JBoss Group.

"We are trying to expand beyond a single product-vendor view into all of the enterprise tools that we run into as we work with customers," Sundstrom told Programmers Report, "everything from build systems to the internals of an app server."

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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