The deal calls for the software giant and JBoss, an open-source Java software company, to explore ways to link their respective server and development products. And it's definitely not a joke, Fleury says. Behind it were 18 months of discussions over being allies even as they battle for the attention of software developers.
Fleury spoke to CNET News.com about Microsoft, the competitive landscape and how the open-source model is shaking up the software business for the likes of IBM.Q: People were surprised by this deal with Microsoft. Some actually thought it was a joke. How did it come together?
Fleury: We were in contact with Microsoft for 18 months or so trying to find a way to work with them. It took quite a bit of time for Microsoft to get comfortable. As people noticed in the blogs, we are a double minus: We're Java and we're open source. But this is a case where two minuses can make a plus.
We operate in the Java camp. But our customers use a lot of the Windows operating system. When we did a survey of our user base, and 50 percent were using Windows, that got the attention of the Microsoft folks.
There's been a little bit of skepticism as to what it means. You can have a joint press release, but what, exactly, are you committing to? Even the press release says you'll "explore" ways to work together. Are you committing engineers from both sides to work together?
Fleury: Absolutely. The press release does describe what we will explore together, and there are engineering efforts there. Namely integrating Active Directory and single sign-on--that's something our portal team will be looking at. On the tools front end and back end, SQL Server integrated better with (database access development software) Hibernate and Enterprise JavaBeans 3 (EJB 3).
These are simple technical points that we can easily deliver on. Then stepping back, a lot of (server-side) Java innovation nowadays with EJB 3 uses Java and annotations, and the simplified way of programming. A lot of these ideas are also present in the Microsoft .Net framework and C# language. The technologies are not that far apart from a syntactic standpoint. We can envision putting the EJB to .Net so that even Visual Studio could have access to that in the future.
But clearly, you're still vying to win over developers.
Fleury: It's not a partnership like what we have with Hewlett-Packard or Novell, where the sales force of HP and Novell are engaged in selling JBoss and supporting it. With Microsoft, we compete on the .Net Framework (development software) front. So Microsoft is going to continue pushing their .Net framework. But on the operating system, it's a no-brainer. We're Java guys; we don't care.
It would seem that having Microsoft as a partner gives JBoss a boost of credibility. Is that part of the intent here?
Fleury: Absolutely. The significance of the announcement was noticed. Microsoft opened up with Sun (Microsystems) first and foremost by settling their lawsuit. The second reach-out Microsoft does with the Java camp is with us at JBoss. That is, of course a great endorsement, even though "endorsement" is a little strong. We're just partnering on delivering a good experience for common customers.
Who do you see as biggest competitors? Are you primarily trying to displace BEA Systems and IBM these days?
Fleury: We've always been in heavy competition with IBM and BEA. This doesn't change that. It's true, historically, that it's been more BEA than IBM. Increasingly, we have ex-IBM customers. There's also Oracle and potentially Sun, with their new open-source offering. There's Red Hat, always. So the competitive landscape is as brutal as usual.
You made your mark with a Java application server that developers, in particular, were attracted to. And now you've expanded that into portal and other middleware areas with JEMS (JBoss Enterprise Middleware System). What's your focus on the product side?
Fleury: We want JEMS to be the ubiquitous stack for middleware. There are obvious pieces were lacking that we're putting into.
Such as an integration server?
Fleury: We've talked about a Java Business Integration (standard). We'll announce the specific areas (later).
Open-source business models are clearly getting a lot of interest these days from investors. Yet there's some question whether it's a sustainable revenue model. Will there be multibillion-dollar companies with an open-source business model?
Fleury: It's clear there is a lot of investment in open source right now. This is really a result of the fact that open source is today in the market, and it's footprint's
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