When news of IBM's acquisition of Gluecode first hit the wires this week, I debated (with myself) the blogworthiness of the story. None of my spider senses tingled when I first processed the idea that IBM -- seller of the J2EE-based application server known as Websphere -- was now in possession of the open source-based J2EE developer that has hitched its horse to Apache's open source flavor of J2EE.
IBM is into J2EE and sells a commercial version of it. But, between its contributions of code to existing open source projects as well as bootstrapping of others (eg: Eclipse), Big Blue is also very much into open source. So, that the company might look to expand its J2EE footprint while tying itself to the very presitigous Apache brand seems smart, if not a bit ordinary.
But then, after JBoss' PR outfit blasted tech journalists with an e-mail pointing to JBoss CEO Marc Fleury's rant about the acquisition, I wondered whether there was more to the story. When it comes to J2EE, not only does JBoss lead the overall market (according to one study), it's practically the only game in town on the open source front. The other two open source J2EE players -- ObjectWeb's JOnAS and Gluecode -- are barely blips on the J2EE radar. In fact, JOnAS, which is the app server that's packaged with Red Hat Linux, can't even claim to be a J2EE server because putting the J2EE brand on a Java application requires special certification -- something JOnAS doesn't have yet. But, despite being characterized as a toy by those it threatens -- JBoss is clearly eating into the marketshare of commercial offerings such as IBM's WebSphere, BEA's Weblogic, and Oracle's 9iAS.
So, after JBoss PR counsel pointed me to Fleury's blog and offered me an interview with the JBoss CEO, who was I to turn her down? Particularly given that Fleury is both a lightning rod and a firebrand within open source circles. He's never been one to mince words and neither his blog, nor my interview of him, disappoints. (The interview is available as an MP3 that can be downloaded or, if you’re already subscribed to ZDNet’s IT Matters series of audio podcasts, it will show up on your system or MP3 player automatically. See ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in). In some ways, Fluery reveals his paranoia that sooner or later, the IBMs and BEAs of the world would get fed up with the way his open source model was eating into their profits and would have no choice but to come gunning for him, perhaps copying his service-ish business model. In the interview, Fleury talks about why the deal has kept him up at night, wondering just what IBM is up to. What's a bit puzzling is why IBM -- a company that has pulled out all the stops to bypass BEA in J2EE marketshare -- would opt for the obscure Gluecode instead of going after JBoss itself (a move that would have doubled IBM's J2EE marketshare). IBM's Bob Sutor, who usually has the inside scoop on his blog, only has links to other news stories and an excerpt from IBM's press release.
Even more interesting is that IBM's move might force the hand of BEA, who not only trails IBM in marketshare, but who is now one of the odd-men out without an open source J2EE offering (the other "men" being Oracle and Sun). Should BEA make a play for JBOSS, it would dart to the number one marketshare position with nearly 60 percent. In the interview, Fleury and I discuss which companies might have an interest in acquiring JBoss and, after dispatching BEA as a possbility, he was at near loss for words when I mentioned Computer Associates. (Did my probing hit paydirt?) While CA has a reputation as the boneyard where tired software sometimes goes to die (hey, not every acquisition is going to work out), an acquisition of JBoss would be a homerun for the company which, speaking of odd-men out, almost never gets mentioned in discussions of the J2EE jetset.
Can JBoss survive the onslaught of a determined 800-pound gorilla? You tell me.