Jboss Inc. plans to make its presence known in a big way at JavaOne 2004 next week, the first time that the professional open-source company has exhibited at the annual developer confab in San Francisco.
JBoss' attendance at JavaOne shows that a lot can change in a year. At last year's JavaOne, the company held its own Java forum next door in a mock protest of the conference and bickered with Sun Microsystems over J2EE licensing, a fight resolved last November when JBoss became a licensee.
Next week, JBoss CEO Marc Fleury said, the company aims to have achieved full J2EE certification with the open-source JBoss application server. JBoss also plans to demonstrate the significant work it has done in collaboration with other Java vendors to make the new Enterprise JavaBeans specification, EJB 3.0, easier for Java developersto swallow, he said.
Both milestones would mark an unprecedented spirit of Java industry cooperation by Atlanta-based JBoss, whose CEO has always been outspoken and unafraid to boast about his company or ruffle the feathers of its competitors and partners. And despite JBoss' show of solidarity with its Java peers, Fleury shows no signs of losing his edge and said he plans to exert even greater influence on the Java software market as his company continues to grow.
Whether company engineers would complete the 20,000-plus J2EE compatibility tests on the JBoss application server in time for JavaOne was iffy, Fleury told CRN earlier this week. "We'll get there, but unfortunately we don't know for sure if it will be at JavaOne," he said. At the time, Fleury said the tests were about 95 percent complete, and JBoss had half of its engineering team working around the clock to finish the certification.
One challenge JBoss engineers have faced during testing is that some of the requirements of the test, such as CORBA security implementations, have never been a part of the JBoss application server and had to be developed specifically to pass certification testing. "It's been a big commitment for us, and we're taking it very seriously," Fleury said.
Fleury said he expects the JBoss J2EE certification to have a huge impact on the JBoss application server's proliferation--and the Java software market in general--because the lack of J2EE compatibility "has been in the past something that has been held against us." Once the JBoss application server is certified, the main reason enterprise decision-makers had balked at using an open-source application server in their systems will be gone, opening the door for even more JBoss implementations in large projects, he said.
In fact, JBoss just landed a deal with "the French IRS," or the Direction Generale des Impots, in an intensive product bake-off against "all our classic competition"--namely, IBM and BEA Systems, Fleury said.
The flamboyant CEO said he's also excited about EJB 3.0 and JBoss' role in developing the new specification. JBoss will demonstrate a prototype of EJB 3.0. at its JavaOne booth. Fleury said the new spec will be "the talk of the town" at JavaOne, since it marks a significant improvement over its predecessor. EJB development has been notoriously difficult, and only the most skilled Java developers have been able to tackle J2EE development because of the complexity of building EJBs. The model to "get to the goodies" of EJB--that is, the ability to write Java objects so they could be remote, secure, transactional and cached--"was cryptic," Fleury said.
Indeed, Alex Burdenko, chief architect at Neeham, Mass.-based Back Bay Technologies, said that making the Java enterprise platform easier "to use and manage" through language improvements and platform enhancements was at the top of his list of near-term Java development concerns.
EJB 3.0 removes most of the complexity from JavaBeans development because spec developers rewrote the programming model to leverage plain old Java objects (POGO), Fleury said. "You simply use tags and annotations and write a Java object and put an XML tag [on it that says] this object is persistent," he said. "It's a verb that developers give to the system, and the system can figure it out from there. It's a lot less intrusive, and that's what EJB is all about."
It remains to be seen if JBoss will continue to play nice with its Java brethren. There have been recent signs that the company--in spite of its newfound will to cooperate with its peers--will always maintain at least some of its edge. Just last month, The Middleware Company, a Java research firm and knowledge network, cut business ties with JBoss because of what Middleware executives called "instability and unprofessional conduct" from Fleury when the two companies attempted to mend fences after a disagreement.
For better or for worse, JBoss plans to remain a subversive force in the industry and continue to grow in size and influence. Fleury said the company is up to 50 employees, like "a real, small company," and has no intentions of stopping there.
"We had an impact on the market when we were 20 employees," Fleury said. "Imagine what we can do when this company gets in full gear."