JBoss is best-known as the provider of the JBoss open source application server, and it has also been known for having disagreements with Sun about licensing of Java test suites. But those disagreements were resolved in 2003. InfoWorldEditor at Large Paul Krill met with JBoss CEO and Founder Marc Fleury during the “J2EE 1.4 Kickoff Event” earlier this week in San Francisco to discuss the company and open source issues.
InfoWorld: JBoss was considered somewhat of a renegade in the Java world until recently. How did the reconciliation with Sun come about?
Fleury: We finally reached an agreement on the specification licensing of J2EE 1.4. The big innovation there was that for the first time an open source implementer could license it, so we have. Right now, we’re writing the EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans) 3.0 spec with Sun and bringing back a lot of the innovation that we’ve been pioneering in the open source community and the Java community. We’re bringing that back into the standards.
InfoWorld: When is EJB 3.0 due out and what’s that going to feature?
Fleury: The 3.0 draft is out now [but it is] still private. We’ll announce at JavaOne [in late-June], preannounce at the ServerSide conference [next week]. And what we deal with is simply finding the programming model. And so whereas today it’s fairly complex for a developer to code an EJB, we go with a plain old Java object model, we use the query language that’s an extension of EJBQL, very much like Hibernate. And that’s it, so [we’re] simply finding the programming model, enhancing the [query] language and persistence capabilities and at the end of the day. It will be very transparent, plain old Java object-based development that will greatly simplify EJB development. We at JBoss hope to have a prototype by JavaOne.
InfoWorld: You mentioned today you didn’t see much benefit from making Java open source. Isn’t that kind of ironic, considering you are with an open source company?
Fleury: I sat through and [asked myself], 'What’s the goodness of open sourcing Java?' And there would be marginal gains that we could have such as speed. Granted, you know there are some bugs in the virtual machine class loaders that have dug JBoss for a while and if we could fix that, that would be good, but really we offset that marginal gain with what I consider a big risk. The success of Java has been its ironclad portability across operating systems. The fact that the Sun engineers were capable of building the best Java virtual machine on Windows, which is an operating system they don’t have the source code to, speaks volumes to their commitment to Java as a portable platform and so it’s also thinking about how we do open source at JBoss. There is an advantage to having very large communities, but at the end of the day you have to mix this community with one responsible person that’s in charge and makes the final call and these are very efficient equilibriums in my mind. We do it at JBoss, meaning we have large communities of partners that contribute. By the end of the day, JBoss is responsible, stands up, has contracts, does business, and it’s a good thing to have this central figure, benevolent dictator image that that’s used over and over. And I think Sun has done a tremendous job in that respect as the benevolent dictator. People are saying, 'Well, we’re tired of the dictatorship.' But really what good would that do? The worst that can happen is Sun loses control of Java and I’m not sure that would be a good thing for Java.