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Interview: JBoss CEO Marc Fleury

Now that JBoss Inc., the stewards of the wildly popular JBoss Application Server and other open-source middleware, is on its way to fully license J2EE compatibility, some see the possibility of JBoss disrupting the commercial J2EE app server business the way Linux has disrupted the proprietary Unix business.

JBoss CEO and founder Marc Fleury recently spoke with CRN Senior Editor Elizabeth Montalbano about why he's committed to open source as a lucrative business model and how things have changed between his company and Java steward Sun Microsystems since JBoss Inc. became an official J2EE licensee. Fleury also took a firm stand on why, despite objections from IBM and open-source proponents, Sun should continue to oversee Java licensing and compatibility.

CRN: Could you talk about why you don't think giving Java to the open-source community is a good idea?

Fleury: It may seem ironic on the surface of things, but really I hope to make the point clear to you. Essentially, [the question is] what would the Java community at large, users etc., gain by open-sourcing Java, the virtual machine itself? The state of the virtual machine is actually very good. The portability of Java is not to be proven, it has been proven, and that is what made Java. Why is Java today the dominant corporate development language? It's because the portability of Java on the server side amongst Windows, Solaris and Linux is superb. That works.

Would open-sourcing that--and the loss of control from Sun that it entails--work? I don't know. Obviously, they're talking about, 'Oh, if we do open source, then Sun would still control the compatibility." I still have to see a net positive value, and it hasn't been articulated by any one of the proponents in any convincing fashion. [Open-source activist Eric] Raymond's letter [calling for open-source Java] was, and I'm sorry to say it, a little bit ignorant. It was emotional. It was bordering--which is surprising for Raymond because he's usually not in that category--it was bordering [on] open-source zealot and open source for the sake of open source. And Raymond has accustomed us to [his having] a lot more pragmatism and a capitalist open-source approach. This was almost a rant. ... Frankly, I'm part of the open-source community and I was a little bit embarrassed by the lack of knowledge that Raymond had about the state of Java and enterprise IT.

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