As CTO and co-founder of WSO2, an open source middleware company, Paul Fremantle stands at the intersection of the two most important trends in software: SOA and the open source movement. He is also at the nexus of technology and the greater good. Based in Sri Lanka, WSO2 was founded in part to boost the local economy there, and the company has made major contributions to the open source community, including the Apache Synapse project that Fremantle leads.
The Synapse project is an ESB (enterprise service bus) that forms the basis of WSO2's own enterprise-class ESB, which debuted in June 2007. Like all other software the company creates, WSO2's ESB is based entirely on Web services standards, some of which Fremantle helped develop. He is co-chairman of the OASIS Web Services Reliable eXchange Technical Committee, whose cross-industry standard for reliable messaging brought together representatives from IBM, Microsoft, Sun, SAP, Oracle, and other major vendors to agree on a common approach.
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Since the ESB was introduced last year, Fremantle has presided over two more revisions from his U.K. office, with a third in beta. Along the way, WSO2 launched a registry/repository, a mashup server, and several app dev frameworks. Although Fremantle has held his CTO slot from the beginning, he's reluctant to take credit for this prodigious output, instead paying tribute to his 55-person team. "I can't lay claim to these successes," he says. "It's the people I've hired."
Fremantle is a big proponent of the "player/coach" style of leadership. "I strongly believe in getting my hands dirty and using the technology," he says. "I regularly do prototyping, coding, customer proof-of-concepts, and other hands-on activities. I also spend a lot of my time working with our customers."
This hands-on approach goes back to Fremantle's experience at IBM, where he worked as a senior technical staff member in the WebSphere group in the late '90s and early '00s. He had a vision for a precursor to today's ESB, but the leaders of the team in which he worked were not at all receptive. "They pulled me to pieces," says Fremantle. "Rather than quit, I redoubled my energies, I found new people to work with, and since I had no team, I started writing it myself." Eventually the project turned into two major initiatives: the technical foundation of the WebSphere Process Server and the WebSphere Web Services Gateway, which ended up in production at Schwab, Prudential and other companies.
Fremantle draws a direct line between hands-on leadership and the collaboration inherent in open source. "Apache and other open source projects use a model called 'do-ocracy' -- leadership by the people who do the work," he explains. "It's hard to balance between the details and the oversight. In my opinion, too many developers don't have the oversight and breadth, and too many leaders forget the details." Fremantle's ongoing quest is to find the happy mean.