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Red Storm Rising

Posted by roy.russo Jul 27, 2006


I had the opportunity recently to conduct a briefing with the analysts at Gartner about JBoss Portal - where it is / where its headed. It was essentially a show-and-tell presentation, that would eventually feed their annual portal report. And so today, I received their Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portal Products, 2006 report.


JBoss Portal is positioned just as I thought it would be... as an honorable mention. Considering that 2005 was our first year in existence (this report only covers 2005), this is a perfect spot to be positioned in and they do make note of the good things to come from the Red Hat / JBoss acquisition.


Where'd all the OS Portals go?
It is interesting to see how the only other (relevant) open source portal server mentioned in this report is Sun (having just recently OSed parts of their portal server). So thats it, no mention of the other players in the OS Portal market, as they find themselves sliding in to the black hole of irrelevance. Gartner points out, quite accurately, that there used to be apprehension on the part of corporations to move to OS Portals. Unlike the Application Server space, relevant open source portal competition didn't emerge until recently (that would be JBoss). Because of cost, support/service, and functionality, IT organization used to be unsure of taking the leap on to an OS Portal server. Not anymore, as we're all witnessing the shift in the market. ;-)


And "Private Source"...
Another interesting item, is the effect that OS Portals are having on the proprietary players...

The technology in Java-based horizontal OSS portals, such as that provided by JBoss (recently acquired by Red Hat), is maturing, and vendor-independent portal standards, such as JSR 168, are reducing concerns about vendor lock-in.


Clearly Gartner has hit the nail on the head again by realizing the demand by consumers for open and standard-compliant portals. No more vendor lock-in, no more proprietary APIs, and no more paying insane gobs of cash for it all. Go figure, IT organizations really do embrace freedom.


The Winning Combination
From the onset, I professed that JBoss Portal would do to the Portal market, what JBoss Application Server did to the Application Server market, and we're seeing it play out. JBoss provides a winning combination in this area that makes it all possible: functionality, proven support services, scalability, stability, an enormous community, and wide distribution (specially now with RHAT). The other OS portal players have a hard time providing much (or any) of this and the proprietary guys are... well... clueless.


We're seeing a maturing portal market, now. Consolidation between various players is rising (expect more in 07), competition is heating up, and the OS Portals are now something to heavily consider (or even fear if you're IBM/BEA/Larry) when making a deployment decision. So expect this one-year-old pup to grow in to a frightful pitbull in the coming months. If what we've achieved so far in such a short lifespan hasn't convinced you yet, stay tuned for the next chapter in our history. You will not be dissapointed and will be surprised. ;-)


Roy Russo


'Ceteris Paribus', is a Latin phrase most of us learned while studying Economics, and is normally defined as "all else being equal". Commonly it is used with respect to the law of supply and demand, 'If the price of BEA licensing would decrease - ceteris paribus - more people will buy BEA licensing.' Of course this statement assumes "all else being equal", and does not take in to account: substitute goods (JBoss, anyone?), macro-economic variables, ridiculous comments on TSS by BEA executives, etc. This is how economic theories are normally discussed, as there can be a myriad of variables to affect the demand/supply of any good/service.


So why the quick lesson in fundamental economics? Is it a primer for a blog on Econometrics? Thankfully, no (I'd like to forget those days). It is meant to define how a cause-and-effect relationship *can* *be* isolated from external influences, something that seems to be lacking in the world of benchmarking.


We all should be familiar with benchmarks, by now. They're those cute little chart-and-graph reports that corporations release periodically to show their product towering over their competitors'. Normally, they're about as objective as the tobacco industry, sponsoring studies, showing how cigarettes don't kill. Clearly, whoever is running the test, has the ability to tweak/tune/hack things in such a way to achieve the desired results. From where I sit, they are nothing more than marketing material/fluff/fud/poop pieces.


Every once in a while, a benchmark is released by a third-party, that would seemingly have nothing at stake with any player in the study 'winning'. This week, we have a study by eweek. JBoss Portal did very well in this 'study'...


On Average Transactions Per Second:


On Average Document Download Time:


The problem with this study, however, is that the idea of Ceteris Paribus is not observed. From their platform matrix, I see a mish-mash of stacks - different OSes, different DBs, JVM?. And then the question, 'Which Portal is the most performant'? If the benchmark implementors had a clue on some basic scientific principles, we would see identical stacks compared - one for the Windows side and one for the Linux side.


Ceteris Paribus breaks down in this study, as...

  1. Portals tend to sit at the top of the stack, and are influenced by everything that sits under it. (This is why we leverage JBoss JEMS components, so we don't have any 'frankenstein parts' as our underpinnings.) So all underlying components must be identical: OS, DB, Network usage, etc...
  2. Bundled portlets are never identical. A MS Exchange Portlet will take much longer to execute via WS than a simple cached HelloWorldJSP Portlet.
  3. Who was the genius that thought of making every portal communicate via network (slow) to MySQLDB, except just one of them accessing an in-memory DB?


I'm not complaining about the results, although - Ceteris Paribus - JBoss Portal would be the clear winner. ;-) However, if benchmarks are a necessary evil we have to deal with in our industry for people to be able to sell ads and steer prospects in their direction, can we agree to observe some basic (very basic) scientific priniciples?


Roy Russo

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