JBoss Chief Fleury Talks Up Red Hat Acquisition

JBoss former chief Marc Fleury--now senior VP of Red Hat's JBoss division--discusses the impact of the deal on the company's existing partnerships and customers, future coopetition with IBM, and pact with Microsoft.

Paula Rooney, Contributor

June 2, 2006

10 Min Read

As the Red Hat-JBoss Merger nears completion, JBoss chief -- now senior vice president of Red Hat's JBoss division -- sat down with CRN Senior Writer Paula Rooney at the Red Hat Summit in Nashville, to discuss the impact of deal on its existing partnerships, customers and partners, future co-opetition with IBM and interoperability pact with Microsoft. Red Hat announced its planned acquisition of JBoss in April and the deal was expected to be completed by the end of May. Red Hat and JBoss will detail their integration plans at JBoss World in Las Vegas in mid June.

CRN: Remind our readers. Why did JBoss agree to be acquired by Red Hat?

Fleury: Red Hat has a much bigger cash flow and resources. It will help us in our geographical expansion and from a sales and support standpoint. Red Hat has international presence and it accelerates our expansion plans in Japan and Europe. The third opportunity for growth is channel development. We want to integrate our two organizations and have access to the depth of relationships Red Hat enjoys. That will be very beneficial. And the fourth [benefit] is development.

CRN: How so?

Fleury: Even before the acquisition, JBoss wanted to get deeper enterprise penetration but some customers were reluctant to move to a smaller company. We may be used in the enterprise but we have not become the standard for SOA [service-oriented architecture] development and deployment. We can see how Red Hat can enable us to scale the operation for that. It also gives us deeper account penetration with existing Red Hat sales offices and customers.

CRN: What will the combined entity offer?

Fleury: A combined JBoss and Red Hat offering is more compelling for customers and we can provide full end to end solutions.

CRN: What does Red Hat's close partnership with IBM mean for JBoss, a traditional rival of JBoss? And how might Red Hat's acquisition of JBoss impact its relationship with IBM?

Fleury: It doesn't change the IBM dynamics much. If anything changes, then the relationship [between JBoss and IBM] has to mature into one of cooperation. Clearly IBM enjoys a very good relationship with Red Hat on the operating system side and IBM is a key partner for Red Hat going forward. It's like Sun and Oracle. They're used to cooperating on one front and competing on the other.

CRN: Will IBM distribute JBoss applications server and middleware on its servers preloaded with Red Hat Linux?

Fleury: I do not know that.

CRN: JBoss and Novell signed a strategic alliance before Red Hat bought your firm. Will that relationship end?

Fleury: Novell has been an early partner of JBoss and brought us very early into their organization and the relationship was fairly developed prior to the acquisition. From our end, we want to continue with that relationship. We'll pursue platform neutrality. We're Java-based and with that comes support for many operating systems, [Novell]SUSE, Red Hat Linux, Windows and I see no reason to disrupt that. Novell has a lot of products and we're providing them with the best [middleware] platform. We have customers in common.

CRN: But will JBoss' strategic partnership with Novell change now that Red Hat owns JBoss?

Fleury: I can't comment on that.

CRN: What are your thoughts about Sun's plans to open source Java?

Fleury: I'd love for them to do it and stop talking about it every year. It was a rhetorical question from the beginning. It was a rallying cry by others in the industry that wanted to wrest control of Java away from sun. As an organization, we never had an issue with Sun's leadership of the JCP. They did a good job of moving a complex platform forward. It’s not question of if it happens now. How is the question.

CRN: Do you mean in how? How it's licensed? What if it's Sun's CDDL, under which Solaris is available as open source?

Fleury: The CDDL is fine because it’s a protected license, versus BSD, which is unprotected. The CDDL would assure Sun that nobody could take off with the JVM, close it and create a competitive derivate. CDDL will allow us to go to the core and do code optimization.

CRN: What are the benefits of open source Java to JBoss and Red Hat?

Fleury: The [technical] benefits are of second order. It's not a huge thing but there will be advantages. Shutting [Sun's critics] up is good. And it'll give us some flexibility to experiment with JVM, such as how you reload classes. Developers like Ruby and Rails because they can quickly reload classes as they develop and the runtime doesn't interfere with the developers view. That's clunky in Java. We know how to fix that already … but having access to source code helps us with things like that, fix bugs timely and optimization of things. But it is secondary and another optimization of things we've done with Sun.

CRN: The benefits to Red Hat?

Fleury: It may be interesting for Red Hat once we close. The truth is, we're both Java so it's no big transition. But there is an opportunity for Red Hat to have an operating system with the best [Java] VM and for Red Hat to own a [Java] VM. It might make sense to distribute [Java] VM. The Red Hat [Linux] distribution has run times today so it wouldn't change anything [for end users] But it might change things for developers, especially those more religious [about open source] which are a minority in the enterprise Java development camp.

CRN: What do you think of Sun's new CEO, Jonathan Schwartz?

Fleury: I met Jonathan a couple of time, even before [he became Sun's CEO]. His public image is different from his private persona. He's a smart guy, personable and considerate. He thinks through things. I met him and all he wanted to talk about was NetBeans. I was taken aback. It resulted in us endorsing it as Java One and that came about because of Jonathan's commitment to develop it.

CRN: Switching gears, what is the status of the JBoss-Microsoft interoperability pact? Is that going to end now that JBoss is owned by a Linux distributor?

Fleury: We're open source and Java and that seems to result in a positive with Microsoft. We have worked with them on interoperability and we're releasing the result of driver optimizing and we are moving ahead even integrating .NET and the Java run-time and we'll announce that at JBoss World [in June].

CRN: What do you mean by integrating the .NET and Java run-times?

Fleury: We'll release JBoss Web that understands [Microsoft] ASP.NET pages and integrates with the Java back end. At a high level, you can code in .NET and you can call [Java] in memory so you have native speed with the integration between the two component models. It's no trivial integration. We'll release that soon. It proves that Web 2.0 is very real technology from bottom up.

CRN: But doesn't the deal with Red Hat hinder interoperability and JBoss' cooperation with Microsoft –whose Windows faces increasing competition from Linux.

Even as we said at [IBM's] keynote, Websphere will continue to run on Red Hat Linux. BEA will continue to run on Red Hat. And 50 percent of our users are based on Windows so it would be suicidal to tell customers they can't do it. This is about customer choice. Customers want freedom of choice and they're getting it.

CRN: How will Red Hat and JBoss integrate their products out of the gate?

Fleury: We'll offer integrated management platform that allows you to manage the OS and middleware. You'll see network functionality integrated. We'll make more announcements at JBoss World in June.

CRN: How will JBoss function if the acquisition gains approval?

Fleury: We have said JBoss will be a division of Red Hat. I am reporting to Matthew Szulik and will continue leading the JBoss organization as senior vice president and general manager of the JBoss division.

Clearly there are a lot of integration points we can talk about when it closes.

CRN: Can you provide a glimpse at integration opportunities?

Fleury: Integration value can take many forms. Product integration … integration of management offerings will be the first integrated value the customer sees .. the integrated management view.

CRN: How does it benefit customers?

Fleury: It will be a full end to end solution. Customers are saying now I can consolidate my vendors and have just one and standardize. On JBoss you couldn't do that before. Before people weren't ready to do that. We perceive an immediate benefit to customers in support offerings, sales and pricing, and peace of mind in doing business with us.

CRN: What do you think will be the most significant happening in the open source space over the next year?

Fleury: The infrastructure part of the open source story – the web servers, operating system, databases, we got all that in open source. Clearly it's a matter of bigger, better, faster and deeper. And that's more of a corporate issue. For all these companies using open source it's a matter of scaling up [open source] rather than the fundamentals of the technology. The business models are established … pure support, like that of Red Hat and JBoss, dual licensing, like mySQL, and the mixed model. The mixed model, you have open source and proprietary software on top of it.

CRN: IBM said it makes $1 billion per quarter on its Linux sales. The revenues for Linux distributors are much less than proprietary operating system software vendors make. Is the open source operating system business truly viable over the long term?

Fleury: Red Hat's revenues on the Linux side is in the hundreds of millions. There is money to be made … it's not the same as Microsoft makes on its installed base but there's money to be made.

CRN: Over time, do you think the Red Hat-IBM partnership will cool as open source middleware use grows?

Fleury: It doesn’t change much from the past. On the Red Hat side, IBM, HP, continues to be big partners. On the JBoss, side, IBM was not a partner so if anything it's more helpful.

CRN: Is there substantial opportunities for a services channel or will most of the work be done by the OEM partners?

Fleury: That is a strategic venue. The largest systems integrator endorsement is at the heart of our channel strategy. We signed up HP and Unisys. And those that are smaller sized are almost as important as the larger sized ones. The boutique firms that specialize only on open source provide great differentiation for themselves and do a lot of business in open source. They are big distributors. And with a SOA offering they become critical integration partners for vendors like us.

CRN: Red Hat has indicated recently that it will attempt to grow its services channel more aggressively. Do you think they will?

Fleury: I'd hope so.

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