JBoss grows market share and share of projects on Linux

Red Hat's acquisition of JBoss looks like a smooth move for customers, as JBoss market share grows and the company sees more JBoss deployments move to Linux.

The JBoss World expo and conference in Berlin last week was something of a celebration of the continued growth of open source in EMEA over the last 12 months.

JBoss and Red Hat see themselves as 'pure open source' providers with genuine roots in the communities from which they have sprung. The open source model has worked for Red Hat and JBoss because of the understanding they have nurtured within these communities, which is something they were happy to emphasize and contrast with their competitors at every opportunity - and it was hard at times not to trip over the small groups of JBoss developers who gathered in corners to talk over coding issues.

Despite, or maybe because of, the recent announcements by Oracle, Novell and Microsoft, Red Hat and JBoss were buoyant in their predictions for the future. JBoss has experienced 240% growth in its partner ecosystem during the last year, and a phenomenal 42% increase in revenue growth across the EMEA region. They have seen particular success in those vertical sectors which, for their different reasons, have proved to be the early adopters of open source technologies, such as the financial and telecoms sectors, which were prominent among the case studies in the conference.

The conference also featured stands hosted by JBoss partners, including HP, Unisys, CapGemini, Atos, Inubit and See Why; a Red Hat Forum; a service-oriented architecture (SOA) track that included real-world case studies; an executive series focusing on the business of open source; and a laptop workshop series designed to give developers hands-on experience with JBoss Seam, ESB and Rules. This show was evidence of the rapidly expanding enterprise open source user community, which seems to be immune to the recent threats to Red Hat's business model from Oracle and Microsoft, and is eager to explore the new found benefits of free software.

As a middleware platform, JBoss is not specific to any vertical sector of industry. Nonetheless, JBoss has typically found particular success among "the fast moving financial institutions," according to Michel Goossens, the vice president of EMEA sales and marketing for JBoss, "and among the telcos, which have a need to develop new applications every day. We play well with the Ericcsons, the Nokias and Siemens of the world," which are organizations that need to differentiate their products on an ongoing basis by creating in-house applications for a specialized market. "They have to move quickly," and the flexibility of JBoss, and the fact that the software is available with no-cost licenses, is "irresistible to such enterprises," he said.

There has also been rapid uptake of JBoss in the logistics and travel sectors, and among start-up companies in new sectors, such as the online gaming industry, where the cost advantages of open source are at a premium.

JBoss was founded in 1999, and already claims 37% of the Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition applications server market. According to a recent BZ Research survey, the JBoss Enterprise Middleware Suite (JEMS) has overtaken both its proprietary rivals, BEA Weblogic and IBM Websphere in the enterprise market.

Goossens was keen to emphasize that, despite the obvious cost advantages, "the No. 1 reason for the take up of JBoss is quality, because quality gets the job done faster," and JBoss code was better than the code of its rivals "because the open source software factory is a better factory. It's all about transparency, peer-to-peer review and eyeballs. We have thousands of people looking at the code all the time, and the code that comes out of that is better code."

"That is true of open source, and not just JBoss," he said. "But at JBoss, we employ the lead developers in all our projects, and we drive the community, and the code that comes out of that is better code." It also follows that feedback is much quicker. Customers who find a bug or desire an additional feature have a direct line back to the developers through the JBoss User Groups.

"The second biggest reason for enterprise adoption of JBoss," according to Goossens, "is that we are much closer to standards and openness than our competitors, and the third reason is that JBoss is a better value proposition. It is cheaper and has better code."

Although downloads of JEMS have exceeded 5 million most serious users choose to take out support contracts with JBoss, using the subscription model pioneered by Red Hat, which ensures support through every stage of the application life cycle. This model has been the inspiration for a flood of venture capital supported companies such as SugarCRM, (which has its own open source community at sugarforge), Compiere ERP and Alfresco CMS, which is a JBoss technology partner. These companies are venturing beyond the operating system model of Red Hat and the middleware space inhabited by JBoss, and into the enterprise application area, where open source applications were previously unknown. Open source companies gain less revenue than their rivals, but also have less turnover, and are attractive to business because they lower the overall cost of IT expenditure.

Red Hat's recent acquisition of JBoss has had an immediate pay-off for JBoss. "Red Hat had a bigger market share than us," Goossens said, "and we had problems, especially in Europe, getting the bigger companies to take us seriously as a small player. We weren't taken that seriously in procurements with long cycles. We couldn't get the visibility and the attention we wanted, but that changed over night. And suddenly we were taken much more seriously at the strategic level.

"Before the acquisition something like 40% of JBoss deployments were on Windows," he noted, "but that has begun to change as we are taken much more seriously, and the typical environments now are Linux and Unix." Notably, JBoss World was as much a showpiece for Red Hat as it was for JBoss.

JBoss opened the conference with the announcement of the beta release of its forthcoming Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (EE) 5.0 compliant application server, and the release of the JBoss ESB (Enterprise Service Bus), which adds an essential building block for SOA integration to JEMS. But the most important announcement was made on the second day "while the ink was still wet", by Marc Fleury, the senior vice president and general manager of the JBoss division of Red Hat, and Jean-Pierre Barberis, general manager of Bull Services and Solutions.

JBoss and Bull announced that they were to collaborate on research and development, and on system integration of open source middleware solutions for enterprise SOA. The announcement brings together two competitors in the open source middleware space, the ObjectWeb consortium, the developers of Java Open Application Server, and JBoss, and promises to ease interoperability problems for both suppliers.

Fleury joked: "How appropriate for Berlin, the breaking down of walls."

Later, Fleury responded to a question about Sun's decision to release Java under the GPL, and whether the success of JBoss in the applications server market had influenced Sun's decision.

"It's safe to say that Sun wishes they were JBoss," he said, "as that was their original intent when they launched their own application server effort."

"Certainly they have taken a page from our book. Here they can have a company that leads a community, and that creates a viability for the community, that pushes it further," he adds. "Is there a little bit of JBoss envy? Certainly. But more important to me is that there is an understanding of the JBoss model of professional open source which Sun is co-opting. Sun is saying: 'We can lead and invest in open source communities' like we invest in open source communities, and increase their innovation, and their viability. Developers can marry an open source concern with a for-profit concern."

Learn more about this topic

JBoss signs research, services deal with Bull

11/21/06

Another 15 years of Java: JBoss' Fleury on the GPL, IBM, patents and Microsoft

11/27/06

GPL Java to smooth business app integration: developers

11/13/06

This story, "JBoss grows market share and share of projects on Linux" was originally published by LinuxWorld-(US).

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