Marc Fleury, CEO of JBoss Inc., said open source is a force to be reckoned with and that his companys version of “professional open source” will be one of the prominent forms of software development as the industry shakes out. Fleury sat down with eWEEK senior editor Darryl K. Taft to talk about how he sees startup companies like his competing with entrenched vendors like IBM, which acquired Gluecode Software, a JBoss competitor, last May.
eWEEK: You guys were like the poster child for an open-source company that graduated to a point where you were pretty successful and you were starting to be targeted by the big guys. Id like to know, whats the end game for you?
Fleury: I think a lot of them have reacted. IBM has reacted. I think Sun has reacted by open-sourcing their app server, and weve seen that all of them, including BEA, have denied that we exist, but theyre reacting. And so Im thinking, is professional open source something that can only live in a company like ours or is IBM doing professional open source in a way, or is Sun doing professional open source? And I think this is a case where this company, when open source graduates from the state where everybody loves open source to the point where its a force in the market, they dont like it as much. And were going through that maturation in the industry. And were fine. Were still in inertia. I didnt think it was going to come that fast and that brutal—everybody going open source and trying to copy our model. I know that copying is the sincerest form of flattery, but its kind of early.
Right, but were you always looking to get to this point? Were you hoping to be a mini-IBM?
Well, theres definitely ambition in the company regarding the end game. We believe the end game is definitely an equilibrium point if you know the model, which is you will have your hobbyist open source, which is still a very big part of open source. You will have your professional open source like MySQL, and were going to be the force because were a funded version of open source, and an extremely motivated version of open source.
And then youre going to have the IBMs and Suns where its the large companies trying to absorb the crash landing that is going on in terms of things getting commoditized. And they think they can do it on their timeline or that theyll have a story when that occurs. We in that ecosystem are very much a pure player with a single vision, which is that professional open source is a standalone, viable category. And were going to continue making money and its very powerful.
We have about 150 employees today, and we continue to grow. This model is a model thats here to stay. I like to talk about the next 10 years of Java, but in the first 10 of Java weve some players move, were one of those players in the Java camp. And now its about the next 10 years and what were going to do to continue growing.
The timeline has been accelerated a little bit by the vendors. I feel a lot of confusion in the vendors right now.
Building a Good Team
You built a good team pretty quickly. What about now that everybodys getting into the game? Do you think there is competition for the good people?
Well, you know I have very good people in two categories. One, the open-source developers, and two, the corporate types who run the company. I have a team of folks running JBoss; I dont run JBoss. Its a team of folks that are extremely talented and extremely experienced, and I think JBoss is something bigger than even the original JBoss team envisioned.
Today, JBoss is an enterprise; its a company with investors and layers of management. And its a common vision that what were doing is a standalone model and everybody is interested in that. We have product management and a division that looks at where we go next.
We have the marketing division with its inbound lead qualification, which is one of the pillars of our business model; we have a channel group. JBoss is still a small size, but it is executing on a simple vision of building a partner ecosystem around professional open source and making that model as viable as can be.
But have the recent moves by others made it more difficult for you to find talent?
Hell no. I think it has raised our profile in terms of driving a lot of people our way. People are saying this year is the year people have put a target on these guys. This is the year that JBoss captured No. 1 in market share.
So a lot of people realize were making money on this and its a viable job and its a real category.
We have attracted serious business candidates this year … On the development side, the funny thing is we have changed the category.
We focused on IBM WebSphere, and we focused on BEA WebLogic app server, but on portal as we do portal we overtake the other guys…and now we have developers that come and say I want to work here. And the caliber of people who want to work for us is extremely high.
Early on we attracted young, talented professionals, but now its the chief architects and the lead developers of large corporations and developers who have long track records that are embracing open source and coming to professional open source.
So I think we have validated a professional category and model that is being copied. I didnt need IBM to validate the model; no, we validated ourselves by being here and viable.
Professional open source is going to be one of the three dominant forms of software production for infrastructure software. And we will be there as we are today or in some other structure.
Which means what? Someone might acquire you?
Thats always a possibility. But the model will be there. And I think well be independent, to be honest with you. Who wants to go against IBM these days? We do [laughs].
What do you see as the outcome of the Gluecode acquisition?
Lets not talk about Gluecode, because frankly, its irrelevant. They dont have the product, they dont have the people.
So I think: According to analysts, we have 34 or 35 percent market share; IBM has 33. There is huge money there, and its very profitable.
How do you map these two positions where they have $2 billion from WebSphere to here [Gluecode], where not only do they not make money, but they are funding the ISVs to port them … are they going to do that with Gluecode? Is their sales force going to be able to deal with that polarity of free is great, but really buy here please? And there are two different products.
We dont have that kind of polarity. Were a pure story. That kind of polarity will bring them a lot of pain. What I believe IBM is doing is saying we need to have a story, we need to have a Plan B, we need to have something in house so that if all hell breaks loose on the licensing—which really became an issue last year when we captured leadership positions in four areas, including portal, which they sell for $60K to $80K.
Today, we have 35 percent market share and were talking about 250K downloads of combined technology a month … That momentum is going be hard to derail for IBM with essentially no product and a very conflicted and confusing story today.
In one or two years when theyre ready and get their first production quality with Gluecode … How the hell are they going to encroach on us? With what? With free? We provide competitive support and we provide for all of JEMS (JBoss Enterprise Management System), a super-platform, in a non-conflicting story.
How are they going to come against us? With what competitive advantage? That they are free, too? When they have a product, why would somebody change from free to free? For the license? The BSD versus LGPL, the supposedly religious debate? For IBM? Some will, most wont.
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