Red Hat Buys JBoss

When Pierre Fricke, JBoss's director of product management, and I rescheduled our meeting on Fridayhe zigged, I zagged, long weekour plan was to get together today to talk about some new product releases.

What a difference a weekend makes.

Unless you've been coding in a cave all day, you've probably heard that Linux distro Red Hat has agreed to acquire open-source e-biz middleware maker JBoss for $350 mill in cash and stock. The acquisition gives Red Hat the technology it needs, the company says, to advance its SOA strategy.

''By acquiring JBoss, [we] expect to accelerate the shift to service-oriented architectures,'' the company said in a statement, ''by enabling the next generation of Web-enabled applications running on a low-cost, open-source platform.''

JBoss, the company, was founded to provide support for the open-source, Java-based JBoss app server, first released in 1999. Marc Fleury, who wrote the first version of JBoss, started the for-profit operation in 2004, to provide ''resources, technology direction and core development'' for the technology evolving around JBoss.

Today, the center piece of JBoss's product catalog is the JBoss Enterprise Middleware Suite (JEMS), a customizable collection of products, including application servers, databases, portal software, process management apps, transaction and management applications, and developer tools. The company bills JEMS as ''the leading open source platform for SOA.''

Both companies pursue similar business modelsthe folks at Atlanta-based JBoss have long referred to their approach as ''professional open source''and in the long run, that may be the biggest news in this announcement. Together, these two companies are validating the commercial/professional open-source business model.

''Red Hat and JBoss are fully aligned around the belief that the open-source development model continues to change the economics of enterprise IT in favor of the customer,'' Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik said in a statement, ''and we truly believe in the potential of software innovation, once freed from the fetters of proprietary development.''

It remains to be seen, however, how well the two company cultures will integrate. Fleury is no shrinking violet, and there was a time not long ago when he had little good to say about Red Hat. He once suggested that the Raleigh, NC-based company was an innovation-challenged ''open-source pretender,'' and some other things my editor won't let me print here. For now, though, he's playing nice. ''This is a winning combination that we believe will further expedite the proliferation of open source in the enterprise,'' Fleury said in a statement, ''which has been our mission since day one.''

And then there's the question of what will become of Red Hat's own JOnAS-powered app server. The company began shipping the open-source app server from the European ObjectWeb consortium back in 2003. The JBoss acquisition could make a few developers nervous.

Fricke, who is usually pretty forthcoming, was under strict orders not to talk about the acquisition, which made both of us a little grumpy: he, because he had some pretty significant product stuff to talk about that would probably be overshadowed by the acquisition news; me because, well... it was Monday.

''Developers are going to care a lot about this [product] news,'' he said. ''The acquisition is big news today, but people who are writing enterprise applications, people who are looking to improve their SOA deployment, are going to be excited about these products. In a way, I think it's even more important news.''

Yeah, but it's not newsier.

Still, Fricke has a point. This is the stuff Red Hat is buying, so it's certainly worth remembering that JBoss has announced three core JEMS products, including:

  • JBoss Transactions, an open source distributed transaction management platform based on technology acquired from Arjuna and HP in 2005. It's the first high-end transaction engine available for free through the open-source community.
  • JBoss jBPM 3.1, the company’s Java-based business process management system. A core piece of JEMS, it adds multi-process language support, and integrates with
  • JBoss Seam, the company’s new framework for building Enterprise Java apps. JBoss Rules 3.0, the latest version of the company’s open-source business rules engine.

That's all until I get Mr. Fleury on the phone.

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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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