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Part III of IV: IBM and BEA announce SCA


Last week IBM/BEA/SAP and a few others announced a new specification called the "Service Connector Architecture" (SCA). Here is an article about the news
BEA official: New SOA spec won't go to JCP


From a technology standpoint we are still wrapping our heads around this announcement, but cursory analysis reveals that it is a potpourri of JBI/EJB3/SEAM. That is interesting actually, at least from a tech standpoint. It seems to re-invent, by copying a lot of programmatic constructs, a lot of the microcontainer, IOC, annotations, stateful conversation innovations that are present in these three frameworks and standards. It is a new shot at a closed standard for SOA.


But the real meat in this announcement is what is missing:

  • The fact that key vendors like MSFT, Sun and JBoss were left out of this, making it a de facto closed standard
  • It is done OUTSIDE of the JCP standards body, in fact purposefully bypassing it.


That right there should be a warning flag as far as the adoption of this technology goes. Guys and gals, this is a declaration of war on standards and you shouldn't bank your future on closed proprietary formats. It is a closed standard, not an open standard and SCA will have problems getting support from JBoss and Sun, without a true open standard endorsed by the JCP.


It is not the first time BEA and IBM attempt this kind of dubious manoeuvre. The first time they were simply frustrated by the slow speed of the JCP, rightfully so. Earlier, they attempted the SDO coup to force Sun's hand to standardize a spec, written outside and after the fact, with a stamp of approval at the JCP level. These are known as "purple JSRs" -- JSRs that were created outside by a small clan and then forced on the JCP. SDO failed. This time around it is something different.


We are all frustrated with the speed of the JCP and would like to see it be more nimble (note to Bill Shannon: follow an aspect oriented approach to service definition, TX would fit in 5 pages with annotations, same for security, same for webservices, same for persistence, same for remoteness, same for monitoring, same for management, same for injection, same for dependencies, same for clustering yada yada, we are well on our way to do that. What we need is to break up EJB4 in many little pieces, my two cents…) But here BEA and IBM said they don't want to standardize. It may be a bluff, but I don't think so.


I wonder if SCA isn't IBM and BEA’s response to Sun open sourcing SeeBeyond, or vice versa. But I don't think this is the heart of the matter anyway. I do, however, really believe IBM and BEA want to bypass the JCP. See, what happened to Java EE when JBoss joined was a rapid commoditization of that stack. We rapidly became the number one vendor. After all, why compete on a standardized technology when it is implemented by a credible and independent open source entity? I knew that when we joined the JCP EC, achieved standardization and captured volume leadership IBM was going to react. They did so by acquiring Gluecode and are botching it.


Bottom line is that FOSS a la JBoss, where developers are in control scares the hell out of IBM. We heard from ex-IBM'ers that we are the new Microsoft to them. We commoditized EE fast, capturing volume leadership, and they REALLY don't want to see the same thing happenning to SOA and integration where they make so much of their money. So IBM and BEA left the JBI specification when we joined. Of course they used a weak excuse about some tech point or other, but if you put the timelines together you get the picture.


Now they went off and created their own little exclusive club keeping us, MSFT and Sun out. Are they afraid of REAL standardization? I think they have just done a great disservice to the Java community by attempting to splinter the spec in the Java world. This coup d'etat attempt worries me. These folks want to sell proprietary implementations of proprietary standards and not let Sun and JBoss mess it all up with open standards and open source. Here again MSFT must be laughing its @ss off at the mess being created.


To add insult to injury, IBM and BEA are trying to "open source" the Tuscany project at Apache. I read the announcement by the IBM employee to the Apache lists, What turns my stomach upside down is when I read this letter telling the Apache community about "meritocracy". Haven't you guys had enough of this hypocrisy from IBM, enough of being treated by IBM like a colony? I know we do as members of the apache community. Here is a message for our developer friends in the Apache community. Beware of uncle IBM offering you candy and talking about how right you are to do BSD licenses and about meritocracies. It is all about being able to fork the good community work you put in there for their competing implementations. END OF STORY. I am sad when I see young developers buy into the license noise and how GREAT it is to do BSD. To me, this is nothing but naivete asking to be taken advantage of. Guys, BSD is a license FOR VENDORS that doesn't protect your work. ISV's should beware of these licenses as well, since they lead to forking and poor community implementations BY DESIGN.


IBM is deathly afraid of companies like JBoss that can self-sustain and beat them in the marketplace with FOSS. As long as they control the timeline of releases, the roadmap and they can fork when needed (which they ALREADY did to Geronogo, poor guys…), they are fine with FOSS. Developers take note. By BSD licensing your software, the best you can professionally hope for is low level employment in the belly of the beast.


Oh don't get me wrong, we at JBoss are just as controlling in the sense that we control the roadmap and quality of the FOSS projects we lead, but we do it with a different mindset. WE ARE COMMITTED TO PURE OPEN SOURCE PLAYS. BE IT AT APACHE (Tomcat/mod-jk) or with Hibernate, or Arjuna etc. Remember IBM loves Linux under GPL, because it has no choice on the license and it helps them fight MSFT but they HATE REAL FOSS when it comes to MySQL and JBoss. They pay lip service to how committed they are to FOSS. In areas where they actually make money, they make sure their low end FOSS implementations are crap…and then fork the hell out of them. BEA is there in the SCA, I am not sure why. They look more like a headless chicken than a leader here.


Again, while big vendors like IBM and BEA are taking the road of closed standards and closed implementations and paying lip-service to open source, we at JBoss choose the road of true open standards, the JCP and real pure-play FOSS. Our agenda is completely transparent; theirs is not and never will be. If you are an end-user or an ISV you should know where the difference lies and care about it. SCA is just another attempt to force everyone's hand, in this case by capturing volume with closed-standards open source a la IBM. Ask yourselves why they didn't want JBoss and Sun in there? Simple: JBoss would probably have the best implementation before they could say "my license business is safe"--they don’t want to repeat the EE commodization nightmare.


This leaves JBoss and Sun in a mode where we MUST collaborate to make the JCP a success. Together, we control the volume distribution of STANDARD EE. JBoss reiterates its commitment to the JCP and Sun as a leader of the JCP. We are looking at SCA, from a technology standpoint and if there is anything worth doing, we will. We will also standardize a lot of the work we have already been doing. Collectively, we already have most of the tech that they have, the differentiator will be programming models and I believe in the EJB3 style standard of programming (which I helped write, so it is not surprising :) Open Standards, open source and good programming models will prevail.


I will leave our friends at IBM and BEA with a little historical parallel. Attempting to split the programming model by splitting the standards according to vendor interest will play out just like THE UNIX WARS. IBM believes they can win it, that they control all the cards, and BEA is so afraid of us that they would rather cozy up to their old enemy… Meanwhile, IBM already lost with Gluecode. Maybe they’re still inebriated with their Linux success against MSFT and don’t see it. Sun WON the proprietary Unix wars, they lost. Then Linux started to trump Solaris, but it wasn't all about IBM, it was mostly the improving quality of Linux and the power of FOSS. IBM has none of this with SCA and Tuscany, not a volume play (we do) not a true FOSS play in L/GPL (we do). Oh how quickly some forget that Open Source IS NOT JUST LINUX. Now ask yourselves who is the Linux of Java EE? JBoss, that's who.


Much as IBM would like to believe their little coup d'etat will succeed, if tech history has anything to teach us, it is that they have already lost. Open Source on Open Standards has always prevailed. Why? What’s in the best interest for the customer? Proprietary standards and proprietary implementations or open standards and open source?


I know where I vote. I know where the majority votes.



Part II of IV: SUN Open Sources ALL software


SUNW last week announced that it would open source ALL OF ITS SOFTWARE and pursue a subscription business model à la JBoss. WOW.


A good article that captures most of it is Information's week Charles Babcock's Sun Bets On Open-Source Middleware For Turnaround


I was in Munich at the time of the announcement drinking beers at night with Sacha Labourey and Michel Goosens as we were doing a European press tour (London, Munich, Paris) and we dialed into the conference call. I was trying to put a question to Jonathan Scwhartz and John Loicano to congratulate them on the bold move and ask them how they hell they were intending to pull it all off. Needless to say I was filtered out of the call.


As Charles noticed Jonathan Schwartz, SUN's COO, must have mentioned JBoss 10 times as the proof point of why the business model was working. Essentially, this is a 180 degree turn from statements two years ago when Jonathan was also announcing that SUN would be the new dominant PROPRIETARY software player. Now, Jonathan has seen the light and decides to open source everything, mentioning JBoss as a proof point of the business model of FOSS and subscription. SUN's turnaround is going to be bet on the JBoss business model?


Just a little point of correction for the SUNW marketing team and the press. As the Wall Street Journal picked up, Sun's appserver SES with it's claimed 3.5 M downloads is NOT THE VOLUME LEADER. JBoss has 6 M on AS alone (as verified by Sourceforge) and north of 8M downloads on the JEMS suite, and that is not even including Tomcat. So, please correct your slides.


But the numbers are details. On a grander scale, betting the future of SUNW on FOSS and subscription is a bold and visionary move by Scwhartz and his team. The writing was on the wall and I predicted something like this would happen back when IBM announced their acquisition of Gluecode, specifically that it would "force Sun’s hand". However I didn't expect them to answer this quickly and this strongly. They have met IBM’s challenge and raised the bar.


The last time Sun open sourced something I wrote "Sun open sources XYZ, who cares?" but this time around there is a significant dimension that I want to focus on. Just as our acquisition of the Arjuna/HP transactional technology represents a significant acceleration of the timeline at which we open source technology, SUNW's OSS'ing of SeeBeyond is an explosion in the integration sky. We saw it, and cheered. I am sure IBM took notice, but I am not sure they are cheering.


All of the sudden, integration and distributed transactions, two technologies that were supposed to hit FOSS maturity in the year 2030 timeframe are available now, mature now, stable now in FOSS. SeeBeyond was a solid if not overly exciting tier 2 integration play, but nonetheless I claim this represents a steep escalation of violence against IBM’s reluctant FOSS strategy.


Both moves go directly to the heart of IBM's software business in Websphere. Half of their license business is driven by integration and high-end transactions. That is not even counting the Global Services revenue that comes from integration because Websphere is so complex. The acceleration of the timeline must be spinning heads in Armonk. A trap door just opened under their feet. Fear and loathing of FOSS must be at an all time high over there. "What did we do with Linux? We wanted linux only... Not ALL of software, ohmygod!".


I don't know why SUNW is choosing to market this as a move against MSFT. Being an ex SUNW employee I know that the anti-microsoft crack is pervasive in their ranks but come on guys, MSFT is laughing their heads off at this move. We are eating each other up right now, throwing bombs over trenches. I believe it is a marketing mistake to target MSFT with this because they don't care. In fact, I am sure they applaud the short term implications of this move...


While we are on the topic of botched marketing communication, I really think SUNW should drop the "Solaris link" with SES. It is a mistake. People will use it in other platforms, remember. Our own user base at JBoss is 50% WINDOWS. You guys invented Java for cross platform purposes. I hear in the market that it is pretty good :) why you decide to go against that technical fact is beyond me. Selling hardware nowadays is done on hardware merits alone, due to the dominance of virtual machines. You either compete on metal or you don't.


Let's talk about the long run. Jonathan, if you read this, congrats again on this move, but seriously you have nowhere to run now. You need to succeed. Fail and Wall Street will open source you (as the comments on yahoo financial boards called for in the wake of these announcements); succeed and you will be hailed as The Man.


Sun has a poor track record of execution in middleware. Quality of implementation has always been sub par and customer satisfaction is a sore problem. SeeBeyond has its own legacy bloat to deal with. Solaris is a shining star in your line up, but face it JES has been an embarrassing failure so far. Even after being open sourced, it still fights for 8th place marketshare in the low-end. What next? You already OSS'd it, are you going to do like IBM and give away plasma TV's for people to download your middleware? Free and OSS doesn't cut it nowaday, it is not the silver bullet some people think it is. JBoss succeeded because the SOFTWARE AND THE SUPPORT are world class.


Charlie Babcok’s analysis is right on the money, the devil is in the details. Can Sun open source everything as they claimend? On what timeline? Through our partner network that has OEM relations with SeeBeyond, we know FOR A FACT that Sun CANNOT open source certain parts of that stack. Already Sun is back-tracking in the press as to the timeline, oy! Come on, Sun, execute well on this one. This is your last chance, but it’s your best shot yet. I would hate to see them end up with the short straw on this one.


As far as competition is concerned this is further fragementation of the number 2 open source middleware contenders. SES will be fighting Jonas, Geronogo for distant second place in open source and maybe 5 or 6 th across the board, in the market. ONJava survey puts JBoss at a 40% market share as of a couple of weeks ago and IBM and BEA are at 20% each. How in the world is anyone going to encroach on our respective positions? For what reason? For sub-par software and support? JBoss ranks first in customer service satisfaction, which is normal since this is the only place we make money. Hmmmm, anyone considering migration would be taking a step backwards on the software and support front. SUNW would be wiser to work with us, as opposed to fighting us.


But don't let me downplay the Sun announcement. It says "the future is now" and "the future of the business model is Professional Open Source". This represents a tremendous acceleration of the timeline of OSS: buying SeeBeyond for $400M and then OSS'ing it was a bold move. Just as IBM forced Sun's hand 6 month ago, Sun just forced the hand of ALL THE BIG PLAYERS NOW. The dominos are starting to fall and JBoss sits in the sweet spot , in a war of the worlds that involve the big boys, JBoss represents a premium brand of volume OSS distribution. Everyone has to react to an open source stack, again, I got made fun of the last time for saying this but where will it end? The future is now and I congratulate SUN for calling the end game on the business models and putting its software where its vision is, will it be enough for SUN to pull it of? Probably not, but we will see,


I am starting to seriously enjoy this,

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