Monday, February 20, 2006

IBM's and BEA's Comments on JBoss

With all the rumors floating around the press lately about JBoss being acquired, there have been some interesting statements about JBoss made by competitor's IBM and BEA.

The first one I would like to address is a quote from BEA's Marge Breya. Marge Breya is BEA's Chief Marketing Officer, so we can forgive her a little for her ignorance. So here is the quote:

"JBoss is closed from a contribution standpoint–it's open source with a closed community…a bit like calling Cuba a democracy," said Breya.

Here is the link that contains the quote:

This has got to be one of the most twisted statements I have every read. First, she claims that JBoss is closed from a contribution standpoint. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Open source contribution is based on a meritocracy. The best contributions are committed, and contributors earn committer status in the projects. JBoss is no different, and I can assure you that JBoss has many contributors outside of JBoss, Inc.'s paid developers. If BEA wanted to contribute, their developers would have to earn that right through valuable and good code contributions. There have been over one thousand contributors to JBoss projects, and that number will continue to grow. If you look at the forums on the jboss web site ( you will see a vibrant community of users and contributors (actually users are contributors too). There are thousands and thousands of posts on all the various JBoss projects. If this isn't community, then what is she talking about?

Second she tries to say that we really aren't open source because we don't have a community, and says it is like calling Cuba a democracy! What a ridiculous statement. So let's really look at this statement. We all know Cuba is not a democracy but a communist state. You would be off your rocker to make that statement. Is Marge Breya, off her rocker by saying that JBoss is not open source? Well, let's ask ourselves some questions. What license is the software licensed under? JBoss is licensed under the LGPL. Is this an approved open source license by the Open Source Initiative? Yes, it is. In fact, the LGPL specifically prohibits the code from ever being closed. We have already gone over the community question and contribution, so what is her beef? I think that it has to do with the license. More on that in a minute.

Next, we have some IBM comments from Steve Mills. Steve Mills is the head of IBM's software group, and he was quoted saying the following:

JBoss' Java application server contains a significant proprietary component even while it adheres to the Java 2 Enterprise Edition standards.

"JBoss has a lot of proprietary JBoss. It's sort of a hybrid model of open source," Mills said.

Here is the link that contains the quote:

Steve Mills claims that JBoss is a hybrid model of open source. What does that mean? Is some of the JBoss code closed source, and some not? Absolutely not! Are some of the JBoss projects not based on an open standard? Yes! Is JBoss not open source just because they have code that is not based on some standard? No! Having said that, are there standards for covering the things that are not based on an open standard? No! There are no open standards for object/relational mapping, with the exception of the new EJB 3.0 specifications, of which JBoss was the main contributor, and has an implementation already. There are not open standards for Aspect Oriented programming. This doesn't stop IBM from using AspectJ does it? Is AspectJ not open source because it doesn't adhere to some standard? Of course, not! This is just a bunch of hooey! Why would IBM be complaining about JBoss being proprietary? Have they open sourced their WebSphere product line? Do they have any proprietary technology in WebSphere? Of course they do. Just like JBoss, you have to solve real-world customer problems, and that means you have to have technology that is outside of any standards. Standards only cover part of the problem space for developing real-world solutions to real business problems. How many WebSphere and BEA shops use Hibernate for their persistence? Lot's of them do, because it is simply works better. I believe there are two fundamental reasons for IBM and BEA to cast disparaging remarks at JBoss.

The first reason, is the license that JBoss uses. It does not let them fork the code and make it proprietary. BSD and ASF style licenses allow, and to some extent, encourage forking the code, and taking it proprietary. This allows traditional software vendors like IBM and BEA to mine the best of open source and take it proprietary. So the open source community does the work, and IBM and BEA get the money. This sounds like exploitation to me. The second reason, is that much of the JBoss technology can run inside BEA's Weblogic and IBM's WebSphere. This must be very scary for them. After awhile, their customers might start to think, why am I paying BEA and IBM anything, when I am getting the most value from the JBoss software components. Maybe I should just adopt the entire JBoss stack instead?

In summary, they want to make it seem that JBoss is not really open source, because JBoss poses a huge threat to their traditional middleware revenues!

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