JBoss vs IBM spat--an opening for Microsoft

Posted by: Steve Hamm on September 27, 2005

JBoss CEO Marc Fleury is spittin’ mad these days. His target: IBM. For five years, Fleury has seen his company grow rapidly by selling support and other services around JBoss open-source application server software. This is the market pioneered by BEA Systems and now led by IBM—software for powering Web sites and integrating enterprise applications with one another. By offering basic application-server capabilities at a very low price, JBoss disrupted the commercial market, putting downward pressure on prices. Now IBM is giving him a taste of his own medicine. No wonder he’s mad. And no wonder he’s now cozying up to Microsoft.

Here's what happened. Back in May, IBM acquired a tiny startup called Glucode, which sold a suite of application server software based on the open-source Apache Foundation's Geronimo project. In addition to rolling Glucode into its software group, IBM also threw its support behind Geronimo. IBM markets Glucode technologies to small- and medium-sized businesses--which is not JBoss' main target. But, by backing Geronimo, IBM bolster's JBoss' main competition in the open-source sphere. "IBM has decided to react quite aggressively, trying to slow our momentum," Fleury told me during a recent visit to BusinessWeek.

He claimed that IBM hasn't slowed his company down. Ninety percent of JBoss' 500 corporate customers have come on board in the past 10 months. But he's irritated at what he claims are IBM's attacks on the bona fides of JBoss as an open source project. "IBM says we're not pure open source, we don't let others participate. But that's not true. Having IBM sit around and tell me what open-source is all about is irritating." Fleury says. He claims that 30% of the JBoss application server code comes from outside programmer volunteers. IBM wouldn't respond to Fleury's claims. "We don't think that's an interesting discussion for customers," says a spokesman.

Well, Fleury isn't just mad. He's getting even. On Sept. 27, JBoss and Microsoft announced an alliance that's sure to get IBM's hackles up. The two will enhance interoperability between the JBoss Enterprise Middleware System, a suite built around the application server, and Microsoft's Windows server products. There will be more to come. "This is a first step. It says the operating systems is not the enemy," says Fleury. "We're not a pain for Microsoft. We're a pain for IBM."

The tie-up also shows how Microsoft is gradually recognizing the need to live in a world where open-source software is a fact of life. Don't expect Office to run on top of Linux any time soon. But Microsoft's plays in the open-source world are worth watching. As are fissures between open-source stalwarts like JBoss and IBM.

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Reader Comments

lord vader

September 27, 2005 08:36 PM

Too bad Microsoft's products aren't enterprise-ready. If they were, maybe gas-bag Fleury might actually have something customers want.

patrick_darcy

September 27, 2005 09:02 PM

cozying up with a company that in reality
would love to shut them down is probably
not the answer jboss is looking for.

it appears microsoft wants communication
between servers, linux and windoes,

unfortunately from what i have read this
will not be allowed in their vista desktops.

its should be interesting to watch gates
and co ruin jboss.

if there is a way to do it im sure they will
think of it.

System Control

September 27, 2005 11:20 PM

IBM knew their complete open source commitment was risky and it remains to be seen if they can continue to sell services and big iron to their new cost conscient customer base. What they probably didn't expect was Microsoft partnering with open source startups this quickly, but there's nothing stopping them, since IBM and others are giving all this software away to anyone and everyone to use however they wish. Expect additional compatibility layers to be built into Windows giving MS the ability to further deliver *nix/Java solutions, while IBM can't counter by providing the equivalent for Windows without licensing technology from Microsoft. IBM's best hope seems to be resting on the 'free software philosophy for all' taking over, but so far there still seems to be significant resistance.

Andrew

September 28, 2005 04:33 AM

IBM has nothing to worry about. The uneasiness that the Jboss/MS alliance brings to the community will strengthen other OSS app servers like Geronimo. And MS will NOT play nice with Jboss, so I reckon that within a year or so Jboss will become irrelevant in this space.

Maxie

September 29, 2005 02:29 PM

The Linux jihadists -- I mean fundamentalists -- are at it again. You love to hate MS and you love to hate one of the most successful OSS companies. JBoss is one of the top three companies to have brought legitimacy to open source in the eyes of very large companies ($5B+). This strategy suits us big guys just fine because we will always run Windows, Java, some Linux, etc. There are very few, if any, homogenous enterprise IT shops.

I love Linux. But I'm also keenly aware (or just cynical) that just because IBM supports Linux, it's still a wolf in sheep's clothing. Until IBM open sources *everything* -- including all of WebSphere -- and eliminates all its software licensing, puh-lease. IBM is not open source any more than MS.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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