After being at odds with Sun Microsystems Inc. for over a year, JBoss Group Inc. now can license the Java 2 Enterprise Edition compatibility suite, thanks to the advent of J2EE 1.4.
Sun had denied JBoss in the past because its flagship Java application server is open source. JBoss raised the ire of Sun because it continued to sell its app server without certification, threatening the incompatibility Sun so loathes.
J2EE 1.4 has changed all that and today JBoss announced its app server has passed the compatibility test. Certification means application portability and interoperability with Java. JBoss is the only open source app server to be J2EE compliant.
"This is huge for us. We think it's really important for IT managers as well because they now have a viable, certified alternative to BEA [WebLogic] and IBM [WebSphere]," said Joe McGonnell, director of marketing for JBoss. "Certification makes open source middleware safer to use."
ZapThink LLC senior analyst Ron Schmelzer said both sides win here.
"It's important that companies realize that they just can't say they're interoperable or standard, but that needs to be substantiated," Schmelzer said. "It also may help developers or managers sitting on the fence waiting for the official word to give the green light for a purchase."
Certification took months to complete and cost JBoss not only hundreds of thousands of dollars, but required dedicating developers to the process who would otherwise be building new features for its app server.
"This was a significant effort, very time consuming and costly," McGonnell said. "There were about 22,000 tedious, non-automated tests that had to be conducted. But it's a milestone for JBoss and open source in general. It's further proof the maturation of both is happening."
McGonnell said JBoss had plenty of help in reaching this milestone, including financial assistance from partners like Intel Corp., which also donated hardware for the testing, and others like Borland Software Corp., IONA Technologies, Atos Origin, Sonic Software Corp., Unisys Corp. and webMethods Inc. also participated.
McGonnell added that certification could make JBoss an attractive option for IT managers.
"We are a very popular product among Java developers and used broadly by them," McGonnell said. "We are starting to see a shift. We are starting to see JBoss in large-scale [enterprise] deployments, and that's an IT operations manager's responsibility, not the developers. Developers care about cool technology that helps them get their job done. IT managers care about using safe products that are supported."
That popularity among developers have turned Sun around on its hesitancy to validate an open source app server like JBoss. Prior to November 2003, Sun bundled its J2EE reference implementation along with the TCK (the certification test suite). Because the reference implementation was included, vendors that signed up needed to agree to the Sun Source Code License agreement. This effectively prevented any company from offering an open source J2EE product, JBoss said in a statement.
"Sun eventually came around after seeing the tremendous adoption that JBoss had in the marketplace. Therefore, in November of last year, they agreed to break apart the TCK test suite from their J2EE reference implementation. It was then that JBoss agreed to purchase the test suite and commit to becoming J2EE certified."
"JBoss' compatibility certification is an important milestone in the effort to bring J2EE and open source together," said Marc Fleury, JBoss president and CEO in a statement. "Built from the start to develop enterprise Java technology, J2EE compatibility strengthens JBoss's vision of Professional Open Source. Enterprise customers now have a J2EE-compatible open source alternative backed up with superior services from JBoss Inc. to deliver the highest level of quality and reliability for achieving their business objectives."