Whos in Charge? JBoss Gaining ISVs Attention

Although it's difficult to measure the true market share of a freely downloadable, open-source product such as JBoss, anecdotal evidence would suggest that the 3-year-old application server is on something of a roll.

Although its difficult to measure the true market share of a freely downloadable, open-source product such as JBoss, anecdotal evidence would suggest that the 3-year-old application server originally written by Sun Microsystems Inc. Java developer Marc Fleury is on something of a roll: Monthly downloads of the server have grown from 72,000 to about 200,000 since the end of last year, and ISVs such as development tools maker AltoWeb Inc. and middleware vendor Gemstone Systems Inc. have announced support for the platform.

"Ive been hearing a lot more about JBoss recently, particularly for lower-end deployments and among ISVs," said Michele Rosen, program manager for business process automation and deployment software at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.

But, added Rosen, while more ISVs seem to be jumping on the JBoss bandwagon, large enterprises so far have been less willing to abandon commercially supported products such as IBMs WebSphere and BEA Systems Inc.s WebLogic in favor of the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition)-based JBoss. One reason: JBoss has not yet received Sun certification of its security and full J2EE compliance.

"It would help us in enterprises to have the [J2EE certification] brand," said Fleury, founder and president of the 15-person JBoss Group, in Atlanta, which provides support and services around the application server. "Open source is a tough sell in the enterprise. You might have a better product and service, but perception can be a problem among enterprise clients."

Fleury said the high cost of going through testing has so far stood in the way of JBoss J2EE certification. Although the JBoss Group plans to obtain certification, it has not yet targeted a date for doing so.

ISVs, particularly those embedding JBoss into turnkey products, dont have the same concerns about J2EE certification. For them, the charm of JBoss boils down to one thing: cost.

JBoss, said Hank Roark, senior architect at ISV Agris Corp., performed on par with WebSphere and WebLogic in internal tests—in terms of stability and throughput and as a development environment. And its free, compared with the $15,000 Agris would have had to pay IBM or BEA per application server license, said Roark.

"At that price, the barrier to entry would have been too high for us," said Roark, in Atlanta, whose company, a subsidiary of Deere & Co., makes management and accounting systems for agribusinesses such as grain elevator operators. Agris, said Roark, is using JBoss to expose parts of its applications—written in Visual Basic 6 and Quick Basic—as Web services. Agris decided on a Java-based approach to Web services because Microsoft Corp.s .Net environment is "in its infancy," he said.

Besides being attracted by JBoss low cost, Roark said hes been impressed by the ability of the open-source development community to spot bugs and execute fixes in the application server.

Roark added that Agris customers and potential customers have not expressed concern about an open-source technology under the hood.

JBoss should attract more momentum—and even some enterprise users—later this month when the JBoss Group ships Version 3.0 of the application server. Key to the new release, said the JBoss Groups Fleury, is an implementation of Java Management Extensions that will make it easier to configure JBoss as a "super server," with many copies of the application server being managed as one.

Executive Managing Editor Jeff Moad can be reached at jeff_moad@ziffdavis.com. Related Stories:

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