Fleury Will Be Back

Opinion: The JBoss founder is a born entrepreneur, and I'll bet he's back in the spotlight soon with another professional open-source company.

We havent heard the last of Marc Fleury.

In a move that many in the industry had expected, Marc Fleury, founder of JBoss and often controversial open-source software has left Red Hat.

In a statement, Fleury said, "I have done what I can to help Red Hat succeed. People need to understand that Open Source is a tsunami that is transforming the software industry in its wake and its inevitability is now well beyond challenge or the force of individual personality."

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about Fleurys exit from Red Hat.

During his career at JBoss, though, Fleury was a one-man tsunami. Never afraid to take a stand, or to be flamboyant, Marc Fleury appeared during a dinner at TheServerSide Java Symposium in 2004 dressed as Batmans nemesis The Joker and shouted "This industry needs an enema!"

Fleury was also accused of posting messages to popular Java sites, such as TheServerSide and JavaLobby, under fake names, which boosted JBoss and its business model while blasting competitors.

Behind the flamboyance though was an executive who took his concept of "professional open source" to the bank as his middleware Java company became the hottest middleware company in the business for several years. In early 2006, Fleury coyly flirted with other companies, notably Oracle, about a potential buyout for prices ranging from $300 million to $480 million.

In the end, while Oracle was perhaps JBoss most ardent buyout suitor, Red Hat ended up sweeping JBoss away in April 2006. So it was in a deal worth at least $350 million that Red Hat acquired JBoss and earned Oracles enmity.

While most observers liked the combination of the leading Linux distributor with the leading open-source middleware vendor, there were many question about how Fleury would fit into Red Hats far calmer corporate culture. The real problem, several analysts agreed at the time, was whether the always-on-the-go Fleury could handle reporting to buttoned-down Red Hat CEO Matt Szulik.

Michael Goulde, an analyst for Forrester Research, said at the time, "We also see cultural clashes between JBoss and Red Hat, especially between Marc Fleury and Matt Szulik." Scott Donahue, an analyst at The 451 Group, agreed: "There may be differences of opinion on where the company should go. I can see Fleury wanting to have a big say in Red Hats direction."

As time went on, it became clear that Fleury was unhappy about some aspects of the deal, even though the rumor was that Fleury personally had cashed in for approximately $150 million. In November, in an eWEEK interview at the JBoss World Europe conference in Berlin, Fleury expressed disappointment at the level of investment Red Hat had placed in the JBoss core development team. He also privately expressed exasperation with what he saw as Red Hats management lack of support for himself and his team of top developers.

So, when Fleury left on paternity leave in December and announced that hed be coming back in March, few people expected him to return.

A Red Hat spokesperson said that Fleury decided to leave Red Hat to "pursue other personal interests, such as teaching, research in biology, music and his family." Im sure theres some truth to that. Im also sure that hell be launching a new company sometime later this year. I also strongly suspect that hell be poaching some of his former developers from Red Hat.

Fleury is exceptionally smart and loves to be in the spotlight, but more than anything else hes a born entrepreneur. If I were a betting man, Id wager not only that hell be back later this year, but that it will be with another professional open-source company. This one wont be a JBoss clone though; its focus will be on Ruby on Rails.

Maybe Im wrong about the details and the timing, but one way or the other, were going to be hearing a lot more about Marc Fleury in the software development business.

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