Java applications, cafeteria style. That's what Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat Inc. is serving up with its rearchitected, modular JBoss Enterprise Platform and the June 1, 2009, debut of its slimmer siblings, JBoss Enterprise Web Platform and JBoss Enterprise Web Server.
The goal of the flexible new JBoss architecture and the additional JBoss application servers is to give data centers choice in the size and sophistication of their Java Web servers. The new architecture will "future-proof" JBoss applications to accommodate as yet unknown new tools and technologies and simplify data center operations with a common JBoss platform, tools and management controls, officials said.
The new JBoss Open Choice platform will enable companies to start with a light Enterprise Web Server for a no-frills site, then juice it up with the Enterprise Web Platform or broaden and deepen the application reach and scope with the JBoss Enterprise Platform, all within the same architecture.
At the heart of JBoss' modular construction are its "Microcontainers" which glue together disparate components for optional services such as clustering, caching, messaging and security. These Microcontainers can be added or deleted as needed to the two larger platforms, enabling companies to customize JBoss to their needs and not force operations staffs to maintain or update more software than they really need, officials said.
According to Mark Little, Red Hat's senior director of engineering, middleware, these JBoss products, with their flexible architecture, will enable customers to advance from simple to complex deployments without changing code or mixing in ad-hoc components from multiple sources that aren't preconfigured to run together.
"This puts power back into the IT organization and allows developers to use the best method for the task…and simplify management," added Craig Muzilla, Red Hat's vice president of middleware products.
By supporting multiple programming models, frameworks, component models and emerging languages, JBoss will protect customers by accommodating changes now and in the future, Muzilla said.
JBoss users praise reliability and advanced features
Ravi Simhambhatla, architecture director for San Francisco, Calif.-based Virgin America, said the airline uses JBoss in all its airport kiosks, which process nearly a third of check-ins, a figure he is hoping to push to 60% in the future. The JBoss application server boxes have not been rebooted since the airline launch in 2007 and just go "humming along without interruption, the perfect solution for a small IT team," he said.
Later this year, Virgin America's website also will be migrated from Tomcat to JBoss. The carrot: JBoss' management, clustering and other advanced features, he said.
"JBoss is very important for my company," Simhambhatla said. "It's rock solid."
Analysts say JBoss updates lead competition, but not for long
According to Anne Thomas Manes, vice president and research director of Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group, JBoss' three tiers of applications "are a differentiator," but won't be for very long because other vendors will be quick to follow.
"From a staffing and operations perspective, it's a significant [JBoss] advantage to have a single management environment for all three layers," she said. "And it's an easy upgrade."
JBoss is also very cost-competitive compared to proprietary products from IBM and Oracle and JBoss' use of the OSGi framework for dynamic deployments of individual components is another advantage, she said.
Michael Cote, an analyst with Seattle, Wash.-based RedMonk, added that Red Hat's intent to broaden support to include the popular development framework productivity tools would give operations teams more platforms and more choice, which would be "definitely helpful."
Aaron Darcy, JBoss product line director, said the Java marketplace is moving away from expensive, one-size-fits-all Oracle/IBM type applications to lighter weight alternatives and predicted that the new JBoss multi-level offerings will be a disruptive market force against proprietary vendors and "cast a wider net for Red Hat."
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