His blog provides an interesting angle on a discussion I had over the weekend with my 12 year old son.
My son is hooked on the ROBLOX Virtual Playworld, which is a free online Multiplayer game where you play in user-created worlds with blocks. When I asked my son what he likes about Roblox, he said: "Roblox combines Legos and scripting...two of my favorite things!".
My reaction was "Scripting? Show me what you mean.".
The demise of BEA as a standalone company is actually bittersweet for me since I've been competing with BEA since 2000. Back then I was one of the Bluestone crew. We had a GREAT team and GREAT technology and competed vigorously against BEA. IBM was barely a blip on the middleware radar screen.
January 2001, we got bought by HP. We had a company meeting at a local hotel where Kevin Kilroy, Bluestone CEO, and Bill Russell, VP/GM HP Software, announced the news. I vividly remember Kevin's inspirational statement "We're going to bury BEA in the parking lot!". We were all excited at the opportunity to accelerate the fight against BEA and dominate the market.
But then, this little thing called open source began to change the game in the software market. Marc Fleury and the GREAT core JBoss minds were building the JBoss Application Server and it was being downloaded like crazy.
In 2004, Bob Bickel, Tom Leonard, and Joe McGonnell (all around great guys from the Bluestone days) were at JBoss and looking to ramp up the team. They reached out to Rich Friedman and me. This open source stuff really looked like a game changer and frankly I still had a bad taste in my mouth over how the Bluestone thing played out.
So, I signed up for Round 2 against BEA. The chance to fight alongside some of the old Bluestone crew, as well as guys like Marc Fleury, Sacha Labourey, Rob Bearden, Brad Murdoch and the talented core JBoss developers was just too good to pass up.
"While BEA was looking “up” at its biggest competitor IBM, JBoss was busily undercutting BEA at the bottom end."
"JBoss launched an innovators dilemma attack against BEA, not with a revolutionary product, but with a revolutionary business model, one that BEA couldn’t hope to copy without cannibalizing its existing revenue stream. BEA fell right into the trap."
In many respects, the middleware game was BEA's to lose. They were the 800LB gorilla back in 2002. I definitely left Round 1 of that fight battered and bruised.
In many respects, IBM and JBoss ganged up on BEA in Round 2. While this round has spanned a few years, the standalone BEA has finally toppled.
Zack Urlocker's article - Heineken: Disrupting a Commodity Business - combines two of my favorite subjects; disruptive business models and beer. Zack describes that "instead of trying to innovate based on a new flavor or new style of brewing, Heineken focused on creating a packaging system that provides a better customer experience", a la the Heineken DraughtKeg. The focus was on "improving the experience, accessibility or convenience of a product", and "Development of the DraughtKeg took Heineken nearly 10 years and it cost them more than $15 million dollars to build a new production line."
There's some similarity between what Heineken has done and what we at JBoss have done with our new JBoss Developer Studio. We're not focused on changing the key "flavors" (open source project technologies). Instead, we are focused on integrating our technologies in a way that improves customer experience. This kind of effort requires investments above and beyond the creation of the key ingredients.
JBoss Developer Studio has been created for our customers interested in having an out-of-box developer desktop that works seamlessly with our JBoss Enterprise Application Platform. JBDS includes fully integrated and tested Eclipse plug-ins, JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, and an entitlement to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. RHEL is optional, of course, since JBDS also runs on Windows, but it's great for anyone interested in leveraging RHEL 5 for virtualizing their developer machines (ex. emulate n-tier architecture on a single developer's box)...which is pretty cool.
JBDS is available as a $99 software-only subscription, and the support is decoupled from it so we can keep that price low and affordable. Our Red Hat Developer Professional goes for $3500 and that provides developer support and access to ALL of our certified distributions including JBDS, JBoss EAP, JBoss Portal, JBoss jBPM, JBoss Rules, our upcoming SOA Platform, as well as Red Hat Enterprise Linux. So...a ton of bits...and developer support in the use of any/all of the bits.
JBDS may not appeal to all developers...just like the Heineken DraughtKeg may not appeal to all beer drinkers out there. So, folks who prefer to consume our community technology in an a la carte manner by combining Eclipse, our JBoss Tools projects, JBoss AS, JBoss Seam, etc. with community support, they can continue to do so.
On Tuesday January 8, our awesome JBoss development team released JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 4.3. Kudos to the entire team for another great effort!
JBoss EAP 4.3 was a customer-driven release. The top two requests from our JBoss EAP 4.2 customers were to upgrade our messaging and web services technologies, and the team delivered.
JBoss Messaging provides a high performance messaging infrastructure and is a fantastic upgrade over the prior JBossMQ component. While JBossMQ has served us well over the past few years, JBoss Messaging is now the messaging architecture for JBoss EAP 4.3, 5.0, and beyond.
JBoss Web Services now fully supports JAX-WS which will really satisfy many of our customers. This also further rounds out our Java EE 5 capabilities.
Since the new JBoss Developer Studio provides Eclipse tooling for JBoss Seam, JSF, Struts, and Spring...as well as includes the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform...it's cool to see how our new offering hits the mark on the most popular application server platform and web frameworks out there.
Thanks to the folks at JavaPolis for sharing these whiteboard results. Pretty cool and easy way to poll the attendees!
"What this strikes me as is a failure to really come to terms with what open source means to IT, and, by extension, the software industry. It is judging open source by the standards of proprietary software business models and finding it lacking, instead of thinking through what business opportunities are made possible by the new mode of software distribution."
"His argument fails to fully comprehend the power of price elasticity, richly explored by Clayton Christensen; simply put, reduced prices don't mean less money is spent on a given item; reduced prices increase the customer base by more than enough to increase total market spend."
"What is important to recognize about all of these open source businesses is that they follow a publishing model and sell subscriptions. And, like all subscription-based businesses, they scale slowly, but are, nevertheless, able to grow to very large scale and can be phenomenally profitable... By contrast, licensed software companies can grow much faster, but tend to have problems later on when it becomes difficult to find new customers to fork over large upfront signing fees."
"The key to successfully scaling a software business (and this is true for both open source and proprietary software businesses) is to generate sufficient leads and to efficiently manage them well enough to create a viable business, defined as sufficiently profitable on a sufficient revenue base. An efficient sales process, applied to the very large lead base made possible by price elasticity, can certainly achieve success on even a 3% close rate."
"We haven't even begun to see the potential for commercial open source (or for that matter, community open source). It will so transform the IT landscape that, in the not-too-distant future, we'll look back on the bit-coercive proprietary software world and marvel that it existed at all - and that it was so small."
Mr. Golden states much more elegantly what many of us OSS vendors have been saying for a while now. And as he points out, the landscape is still changing...which should make the next few years a lot of fun.
Microsoft's stance on open source is pretty clear to me:
Microsoft has no plans on flipping any of its flagship products to open source. Period. The effort vs. reward equation just does not make sense since it would be a HUGE effort to make the code consumable by a community.
Microsoft sees some value in understanding open source; hence its investments in Port25 and CodePlex.
Microsoft sees some value in open source technologies that run on or interoperate with its platforms and products.
Microsoft will aggressively fight/compete with products (open source or closed source) that pose a threat to its core products. Hence, Bill's points re: Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Now, while I do work at Red Hat, I should also disclose that I know and respect Bill Hilf. We started working together a few years ago on the JBoss / Microsoft alliance. At that time, we agreed to set aside the Java vs. .Nyet(sorry Bill) debate and focus on better serving our developer and production users that target Windows. Among other things, we focused on interoperability (Web Services, etc.) and have participated in various plug-fest workshops over the years.
So, I have to admit that I'm disappointed to see Bill Hilf dance around the questions and hide behind such FUD as proprietary software "guarantees".
As much as I hate to say it, Microsoft could learn something from IBM's strategy. They make no bones about it: they work in the open source on piece-part components that they Bluewash into their closed-source products. While it's not a pure open source business model...it's clearly an open source strategy.
C'mon Bill, drop the FUD (that's Ballmer's shtick, not yours) and just say it as plainly as I have above.
Bottom-line on last year's speech: Larry grabbed Red Hat Enterprise Linux...rebranded it Oracle Unbreakable Linux...and declared Red Hat, Inc. public enemy #1.
Fast forward to this year and the headlines read... "Larry Ellison levels guns at Red Hat". Sounds familiar...but with a year to prepare, I've gotta believe Larry's speech writers and product marketing folks have something special to share.
"Oracle has been in the Linux business for a year now. With the Red Hat code all we did for the first year was fix bugs". Hmmm...funny, this is not an issue that I've heard from customers...but Larry's a smart guy, so let's move to the next point.
"Now Oracle is growing a lot faster than Red Hat. Red Hat has been growing too because it is a growing market." I always think of Pierre Fricke's blog whenever a comparison like this comes up.
"Oracle VM takes on VMware". OK, OK, this sounds important since it's "one of the biggest software launches in the company's history". I'm almost giddy with anticipation....until I look at the product website. Is it just me or do the key features of Oracle VM sound an awful lot like...Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform which was released last March as I recall?
Anyhow, since I'm the middleware guy at Red Hat, I'll leave the details of how accurate my assessment of Larry's Groundhog Day moment is to the Linux and Virtualization experts out there.
Moving on to a topic of keen interest to me, you gotta love Oracle's interest in BEA. I can see it now, Oracle finally acquires BEA and Larry promises he will "fix" the BEA products. Soon after, Larry introduces the revolutionary OraLogic Server 11g and explains that he will raise the price on the product because BEA customers feel that the products have been priced too low for too long.
I write this from the Swiss Air Lines business center in Geneva...awaiting my flight back to the US.
I've been in Neuchatel the past few days for the quarterly meeting of the JBoss TBOD (Technical Board of Directors). Sacha Labourey chairs the two days of meetings of the JBoss technical leaders. We covered a wide range of business and technical topics (OpenJDK, Java EE 6, etc., etc.) over the two days. It's a good way to ensure that we synchronize our thoughts once a quarter. And it offers a great chance to generally catch up with folks face to face...during the meetings...after the meetings over food and drink....etc.
Speaking of food and drink, the meeting nicely dovetailed with the annual Neuchatel Wine Festival. It's 3 days of food, drink, and general partying into the wee hours.
I took some time on Saturday to wander around the town and found myself at around 1:30 completely famished.
No worries there of course, since every kind of food and drink is right here for the asking. I kept it simple by ordering "la choucroute et une bier".
As I lifted the beer to my lips, I toasted another successful TBOD meeting...and then tucked into my dish.
Mmmmmm....sauer kraut with various sausages and a beer never tasted so good!
Gavin King and the JBoss Seam community were given top honors as the Best Web App Server Framework in the Platforms and Middleware category: "Seamis a Java EE-based framework that helpfully combines Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) 3.0 and Java Server Faces (JSF), and delivers important new benefits that include handling the thorny problem of stateful page flows, simple construction of CRUD applications, AJAX and Web 2.0 interfaces on server-based applications, reporting enhancements, and an extensive business-rules capability."
And speaking of business-rules capability, Mark Proctor and the Drools/JBoss Rules community were given top honors as the Best Business Rule Management System in the Software Development category: "Measured by enterprise-grade features including sophisticated tools for developers, graphical interfaces for business analysts, and fast runtime performance,JBoss Droolslags only Fair Isaac's Blaze Advisor and ILOG's JRules. At the current pace of development it will not lag them for long."
Both of these communities have been quickly building out innovative features designed to simplify application development. When used together and along with JBoss jBPM for Business Process and Workflow, the speed with which a robust, AJAX-enabled, business process and rules-driven application with full CRUD capabilities can be created is mind-numbingly impressive.
Anyhow, kudos to the Seam and Drools communities for showing who's the BOSS...the Best Open Source Software.
While there's much more to say about each bullet point, that's basically the definition in a nutshell.
Since our products are open source, some people associate subscriptions with just support. In my Open Source Business Models: Definition of Support posting, I make the case that our customers need more than just support...which is why we are in the business of selling Subscriptions.
Rod Johnson and Stormy Peters are engaging in the debate of which model is better: "Create & Support" vs. "Pure Support". This topic has gone round and round in the past, and I think the heart of the debate lies in the definition of "Support".
The "Pure Support" model should actually be called "Technical Assistance" since it focuses on helping people get over technical issues, find workarounds, etc.
Technical assistance is important, but what happens when the issue requires a bug fix...or a refactoring of some of the code? Then what?
The code can be changed...but who manages that change? And if that code is part of a complicated stack of open source technologies...who is managing all the patches and branches of all those changes?
Also...who ensures that change is committed upstream so that future releases of the technology benefit from the change? If the changes are not committed upstream...then who will maintain that fork for the X-years lifecycle that enterprise customers demand?
Let's be real. While enterprise customers need technical assistance, they also need patches and updates to the versions of the software they have deployed today...and they want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their fix today will still be there in future versions if/when they upgrade.
So, this explains why we at JBoss hire the key technical leaders from the projects that comprise our middleware portfolio. THIS is Professional Open Source.
Professional Open Source is not just Technical Assistance.
JBoss Enterprise Application Platform integrates the following open source JBoss technologies for building, deploying and hosting enterprise Java applications and services:
JBoss Application Server 4.2
Apache Tomcat 6
JavaServer Faces 1.2
JBoss Clustering, Cache and Messaging
JBoss Transactions JTA
This Beta Release represents an opportunity to evaluate the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform before its widespread production release. It is intended as a technology preview in order to allow users to explore its capabilities and evaluate its suitability for their needs. Please deploy it in testing and evaluation environments only.
Your feedback on this technology preview is valuable to us, and is an integral part of making this the most stable Enterprise Application Platform possible. Please raise any concerns that you have or issues that you encounter by opening an issue in our JIRA Issue Tracking System at http://jira.jboss.com/jira/browse/JBPAPP. Please bear in mind that the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform Beta is a technology preview and will not have a support SLA until its final release.