In 2003 Red Hat discontinued its popular Red Hat Linux distribution, replacing it with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) for commercial users and Fedora for more casual users. Now the company is planning a change for JBoss, the highly successful application server it acquired for $420 million last year. While the new model looks a lot like the Fedora model, it's not exactly the same. To help clear up the confusion, ZDNet caught up with Andrew C. Oliver, former JBoss employee and member of the Apache Jakarta PMC. Andy is now the CTO of Bunisoft and co-founder of the Meldware project.
First we asked Andy what he thought of the news in general. Was it a surprise? Will it be good for JBoss users?
This isn't unexpected. Red Hat has made no secret about its plans to integrate JBoss into its existing business model. It will be interesting to see if it works as well for them in the appserver market as it has for them in the Linux market. For Meldware we intend to stick with JBoss's original model as I think it best serves our customers if we have one production-quality open source product.
Open source vendors walk a fine line between the requirements of their licenses (such as GPL) and the need to give some users a reason to pay them money so they can make a profit. For example, RHEL source code is available to anyone but not the CVS repository or pre-built binaries. How will the new JBoss model work?
I think something is lost when you have an "Enterprise" version that is different from the main-line open source version. It is very difficult to both maintain a special commercial fork and provide customers with the full extensibility and benefit of open source.
I am pleased that JBoss will keep the [source code] repository open. I hope it will be the real repository unlike Zimbra who does an occasional dump on Sourceforge...either that or they only have two developers and they're not very active. I also hope we don't see a "light" open source version of JBoss like Scalix does with OpenScalix where certain features are limited by number of "premium" users. How that is open source is beyond me! However with smart people like Sacha Labourey in charge, I have no doubt that this will be done the right way.
Red Hat is saying that the "community" version of JBoss will "not be bogged down with backward compatibility". What does that mean exactly?
This is a recycled Fedora message mostly. However I suspect this has more to do with config files. With JBoss you have to change config XML files that come with it. Every upgrade you have to reapply your deltas and yet often they change even in the point releases. It is a pretty ugly pain point. I imagine the enterprise edition will fix this. However it is mostly an architectural problem that leaks out with regards to the JMX microkernel (presumably this will be replaced by the microcontainer but I suspect as with XMBeans that existing services will be slow to convert).
Secondly, for JavaEE 1.5 certification you not only have to support say JMS, but it has to be the 1.1 version. So if 2.0 comes out you CAN'T upgrade and pass certification. Certification is not free Red Hat has to recoup the costs somehow. I imagine this is part of it.
According to Red Hat, source code and binary for Community releases will continue to be made available like they are today with no changes. For the Enterprise releases, the source code will be freely accessible (they are using the exact same CVS/SVN servers/trees for platform development) but the binaries will only be accessible if you build it yourself or subscribe to one of their commercial offerings (Developer subscription, Production subscription, or Red Hat Developer Studio).
Andy will be at Linuxfest Northwest 2007 in Bellingham, WA this weekend. Speakers from Red Hat, Google, Novell, OLPC, MySQL, Linden Labs, and others plan to participate. Admission is free.