Enterprise Unix Roundup: Has JBoss Sold Its Soul?
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We've often been quoted around the office as saying, "Microsoft is not an innovator." We don't mean it derisively, but it's a fact that the Redmond behemoth waits out new trends to see what sticks and which market leader emerges before acquiring the technology or growing its own.
We've also often said that vendor's ultimate appeal is in its packaging. We don't mean this derisively, either. Tying all of the disparate software functions into one well-integrated package so those in the server room don't need to think too much is nothing to sneeze at.
It's been an effective strategy that has changed little as the vendor continues its domination in the enterprise space despite the vocalness of some who espouse, "Windows is not an enterprise-class OS." Whether or not that is true, according to the latest Gartner stats, the vendor has a 34.42 percent market share in data centers, which translates to a year-over-year growth rate of 7.8 percent and surpasses Unix's 33.84 percent share.
So, clearly the vendor is on to something. Microsoft has been also been savvy enough to use this strategy to keep pace with the times, as recent forays into the virtualization and instant messaging markets reveal, and endeavors under way in the continuous data protection and clustering spaces.
Microsoft has long-ago covered the proxy server space (with ISA), the Web server space (with IIS), and the mail server space (with Exchange and, on the client side, Outlook). Notably missing from its functionality set is an application server.
So, there was nothing overtly unique about Tuesday's announcement that Microsoft had allied itself with JBoss. In many ways it was more of the same, and certainly along the lines of what we're used to seeing.
Under the terms of the deal 18 months in the making, some news outlets report the two companies will "explore" ways to enhance the interoperability between JEMS and Microsoft Windows Server products. Technical teams from Microsoft and JBoss will work in Redmond and begin the integration with Windows Server 2003. Given that Microsoft hasn't yet entered the already crowed application server space, and enterprises are all atwitter at the benefits of open source, it's a double win for the vendor.
Microsoft may not be an innovator, but it is a fantastic imitator, and it has a long history of simplifying and salving pain points. So we have little doubt that it will gain share at Unix's, and perhaps Linux's, expense in the app server arena.
Not to mention that no love will be lost from either company as Microsoft further assists JBoss in going head-to-head with Oracle, BEA, and IBM on a playing field on which it has yet to actually play. However, if Longhorn will be the application server Microsoft is aiming for it to be, the addition of JBoss may well be its MVP.
The agreement itself represents a litmus test of sorts as to the legitimacy of open source. JBoss bypassed acceptance from the open source friendly vendors notably, IBM and Sun, who in the past have attracted the ire of JBoss CEO Mark Fleury. JBoss' antagonism with Sun and IBM has been going on for several months now, and is summarized well in this Business Week blog entry.
Whether it was JBoss' choice or the other vendors, it seemed an obvious skip to us. Both IBM and Sun have app servers of their own. In IBM's case, it chose an open source offering, Glucode and the Geronimo project, to complement WebSphere. In Sun's case, its Sun Java App server is built around Java, which is a major endeavor of its own.
Of even more interest to us than the agreement itself is the impact this will have on open source in general. As much as open source has penetrated the enterprise, Microsoft's corporate culture is pretty much the antithesis of what make open source tick. Watching the two cultures mesh will be akin to any anthropological study.
It will be interesting to see how Microsoft's value proposition, in effect its packing, meshes with the open source philosophy "whatever works." Already there is a distinction between open source businesses and open source projects. It's pretty clear which will survive and attract ISVs in a Microsoft world, and Microsoft's endorsement of open source may be enough fortification for skittish CIOs, as well as ISVs, still on the fence.
We also suspect it may take the Linux-Unix assumption out of the open source arena. Given that Microsoft now sees money to be made in open source, we have no doubt Windows will command a big slice of the pie.