Open Source Software Up the Stack

Dennis Byron

Red Hat JBoss Middleware Strategy Updated, Metamatrix Kidnapped into OSS

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Red Hat is explaining its JBoss middleware strategy at a press conference this morning. I am live blogging it, but a recording or transcript may be available later on the Red Hat site if you don't want to take my word for it.

Red Hat calls the conference subject the "middleware migration" program. Red Hat executives say the company is now a full end to end stack provider. They want JBoss to do for legacy middleware deployments what RHEL did for legacy Unix sites (recover investment, take back value). Red Hat's upgraded approach, they say, provides much better value than legacy client/server middleware.

This is what I heard explicitly or implicitly:

-- An update to the JBoss strategy is needed because a year after the acqusition, JBoss has not been the revenue boon Red Hat expected.
---------- Studying Red Hat's financials, which is what I do in my day job, it's clear that the press reports about JBoss revenue stream prior to the acquisition (that is, for the period 2000-2005) were grossly overstated. I am embarrassed to say that even my own estimates of their size when I was making such estimates for IDC between 2003 and 2006 were a little on the high side. And I was always being criticized by JBoss management for ranking the open source software (OSS) middleware "wunderkind" too low on my share tables.
---------- At its most recent quarterly conference call, Red Hat's management revealed that its JBoss division did not meet the $50 million bookings target for CY 2006 that would have triggered bonuses for all the ex-JBoss guys.

-- The good news for JBoss users is that users found (both pre- and post-acquisition) that the core application server product was so well built that it did not need a lot of subscription maintenance support (and that of course is how JBoss and now Red Hat makes its money in an OSS business model). This fact showed up in user survey work I did between 2003 and 2006 and that was the basis of my estimate of JBoss.
----------- Therefore, Red Hat is making changes to the jboss.org, bifurcating the community from the distribution just as Fedora is bifurcated from RHEL. This will allow the community to do more with Apache and others. Bob McWhirter will be to Jboss.org what Max Spevack is to Fedora-project.org (see my February 3 post)
----------- On the product side, a separate organization will package integrated JBoss Platforms, one for applications and another, later in the year, for SOA and BPM (so this organization is more like the Red Hat group that gives you RHEL and separate from jboss.org)

-- Red Hat should be congratulated for moving to a Plan B very quickly. Based on comments at their recent quarterly financial-analyst conference, I believe
------------ Red Hat is kicking off a program of implementation and training services (rather than subscription maintenance services) to support the entire JBoss stack (not just the rock solid J2EE server).
------------ Red Hat also announced middleware development tools to let people work with the JBoss stack more easily.(More broadly, in terms of likely future acquisitions, Red Hat cautioned at its financial analysts meeting "don't think as much up the stack but across the enterprise." That would mean they will look at answering all kinds of professional development needs in addition to the deployment and infrastructure software they currently offer. They are probably not looking to acquire applications suppliers. So they acquired Metamatrix data management software supplier, which had no OSS connection.) It is the first example I can think of a proprietary product being kidnapped and moved into OSS. Metamatrix will be initially available as a subscription and eventually moved to OSS (depends on license restrictions, etc.)
------------- Red Hat will build any new services effort around development and deployment partners of all types. For example, Red Hat also announced an arrangement where Vitria will ship its next-generation SOA software with and on the Red Hat JBoss stack.

My open question going in was this: who will Red Hat criticize at the press conference My experience with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) events is that Red Hat management begins by criticizing Windows. Since Microsoft "gives away" most of its middleware with its operating software (BizTalk is an exception), it was hard for Red Hat to argue that the Microsoft middleware software does not have the advantages of OSS.

I jest. At the point where they usually criticize Redmond, the executives basically contrasted the JBoss stack with legacy middleware (implicitly Websphere, Weblogic) the way Covalent did with Gluecode a few weeks ago.

But a real concern might be how a Red Hat JBoss partner program dovetails with the RHEL partner program announced in March. I will follow up by "talking to..." a few Red Hat partners over the next few weeks and see what they think.

As an aside, at the recent quarterly conference call, Red Hat signaled likely acceptance of the GNU General Public License Version 3 (GPL V3) based on its first look at the third draft (as I described at the time, there will be one more final-call draft after a minimum 60-day comment period on the third draft). Red Hat thinks GPL V3 "is better on the patent stuff." The company also said that "like any OSS project, it gets better with each iteration." I take that to mean that it still isn't where Red Hat would like it to be but they would not comment further, saying the company prefers to work through the relevant Free Software Foundation license committees. Red Hat uses a hybrid legal document; different products are licensed under different open source software licenses, including one use of GPL V2 and one use of the Lesser GPL (which goes away with GPL V3).

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Dennis Byron’s blog on open source software: A longtime market research analyst follows what “the movement? means to business integration—in applications, infrastructure, as services, as architecture and as functionality.

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