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Red Hat, JBoss execs call for Java openness

Jack Loftus, News writer

NASHVILLE -- Why the Java source code hasn't been made available to the masses is beyond Tim Yeaton, Red Hat's senior vice president of enterprise applications.

The community model is proven. And to see the results, a user, pundit, analyst or otherwise would have to look no further than JBoss, a popular open source middleware company that was recently acquired by Red Hat for a cool $400 million.

At the Red Hat Summit, the annual convergence of users and partners of the Durham, N.C.-based commercial Linux vendor held here last week, Yeaton was joined by Shaun Connolly, vice president of product management at JBoss. The two open source executives took the opportunity to grouse about the current state of Java, touch upon plans for virtualization and rally on the need for openness by companies like Microsoft.

How would an open Java be of any value to this partnership?

Tim Yeaton: First off I think it's been a disappointment that there hasn't been more progress in opening Java. You look at choices that have to be made in terms of [Java Virtual Machines], and we are all making a series of awkward choices because the processes of the technology have not been opened.

I think there has been some amount of opposition because there was a certain amount of pre-[JavaOne annual developers conference] buzz that the [current attitude] might change. I think certainly my observation is that we didn't get much further with an open Java.

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Unfortunately because we are contrived into doing odd things to meet what our customers need

So there is more to this than just the media and a good headline.

Yeaton: True. We all work around it. We all do the licenses with Sun to do what we need to do to meet customer need, but it could certainly be better.

Shaun Connolly: I think if you look to the success of open source, and with Java Enterprise Edition 5, and also to the success of Hibernate, then each of these have helped drive Java persistence and increase the simplicity of Enterprise Java Beans 3. Then when you open up a technology for large community, you are able to drive the innovation even further. I think from my standpoint the acceleration of innovation into the core Java platform is the primary benefit of opening up the code. Being able to be sure that there is this large community of eyes would also drive the quality way up.

I understand the desire for preservation, the need to want to make sure your APIs are intact. But with the success of JBoss and the J2EE platform out there that means there is already a precedence set, so let's extend it to the full platform.

What are customers asking for from both your companies as far as the software stack is concerned?

Yeaton: What we are hearing from customers is a desire to have an open source platform that extends from engaging with developers and architectures at applications integration through testing and certification to actual products out through production and deployment. They want this in a way that will enable them to take full advantage of next-generation data center infrastructure -- like microprocessor technology, hardware architecture, virtualization -- and to drive down costs and improve utilization agility. The exact parallel of this, of course, is facilitating the creation of next-generation component-based applications and their use.

Connolly: When we look at the overall stack, I think that whole end-to-end provision through deploy as well as overall manageability with Red Hat network and JBoss operations network, and that isn't just in production environment, it's through the whole cycle. At the end of the day customers are looking for us to simplify that.

More on Red Hat:

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Golden's Rules: Red Hat/JBoss pairing bad news for BEA, Novell

Yeaton: One of the things we really wanted to do together was reach out to developers. Developers in commercial organizations are looking to take advantage of open source software and the open source development methodology, as well as the open source community at large, to continue to create the ecosystem around both of our platform technologies. Hopefully an important message we conveyed at the Red Hat Summit was that we really wanted to reach out to the developers as they think about how they are going to take better advantage of these technologies.

How does virtualization technology fit into the partnership? Into the software stack?

Yeaton: We actually recently launched an integrated virtualization platform to describe in a transparent way how we intend to roll out our capabilities so people can start to think about where to apply virtualization and plan for deployment. This is a simple way to say virtualization is not just about slamming a hypervisor under or onto your operating system, that it really has to be architectural approach that provides virtual access to resources, storage and even clients in some ways. For example, we hear from one banking customer that they expect deploy virtualization as part of a plan to save millions in electricity.

When analysts and members of the media compare the Red Hat/JBoss combination to companies like BEA, is that fair? Will we see more aggressiveness from Red Hat in these markets now?

Yeaton: There is quite a broader point to be made first in that [Red Hat and JBoss] by virtue being open source recognize part of the value of open source software is choice. So yes, we have partnerships with companies like BEA, IBM, and others – you name it. Now, is there potential overlap? Occasionally yes, but quite frankly customers makes the choice, not us. We have a set of capabilities now that we want to take to market, but in the end we will not hesitate to help the customer make the right choice.

Connolly: A large part of our customer footprint runs BEA in their environments. It is about coexisting, and we have accepted that. Since it is about heterogeneous environments, that's the whole point -- not to rip and replace but to enable customers to leverage their investments and give them the choice to drive out costs in key areas. We hope to enable them to do that as a business choice as opposed to putting a gun to their head.

If you have been following Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative, Port 25, lately then you know about that company's goal of communicating with the open source community. Is it possible to see the two cultures coexisting?

Yeaton: In the larger customer environments all these technologies coexist at some level already. But another thing to consider is what does "open" mean from the standpoint of the customers. In that case it is not just about licensing, or availability of the source code, it is how one can make use of the vibrant community that has built up around a project. I think today we see lots of companies that say a lot of things about openness, but it is not clear by their actions that it fully embraces the acceleration and leveraging of the entire open source model. Sometimes you see companies like these doing things a piece at a time, or doing it in certain areas but not in others. I think that has confused customers.


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