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JBoss Group: Defections Aren't a Big Deal

JBoss Group, maker of one of the world's leading open source J2EE-based application servers, is scoffing at claims that the exodus of some core developers to form their own company will hurt its business.

"This is really not a big deal," Ben Sabrin, director of Sales and Business Development for JBoss Group, told internetnews.com. "Three people, really, have departed."

In a statement, the company said: "In the services industry, you will always have some sort of turnover. This is reinforced by the fact that JBoss is an excellent product. In this instance, JBoss Group lost only three U.S. consultants, one of whom had been with the company for only three months. Given the human and financial resources of JBoss Group, this means very little to our product and day-to-day business."

JBoss Group says that about 82 people around the world have a read-write password to JBoss, allowing them to contribute directly to JBoss Server's codebase. Of that number, an average of 10 core developers work full-time for JBoss at any given time, writing code for JBoss Server and providing some of the company's consulting services. The company said thousands of developers have contributed patches and bug fixes to JBoss

The departing JBoss core developers severed their ties with JBoss Group on Tuesday. On Wednesday they launched a new company, Core Developers Network. Core Developers Network, based in Minneapolis, will be a services company supporting enterprise open source Java software. The new company hopes to take a focus wider than just JBoss, and some of the founding partners have expertise in open source application technologies Jetty, Apache Jakarta and XDoclet.

"Direct support is available today for these projects, as well as third-party support for several other core technologies," Core Developers Network said Wednesday.

The company said it would provide documentation, training and support services for a variety of open source applications and projects, including JBoss, Ant, dom4j, JavaGroups, Jetty, JUnit, log4j, Oracle, PostgreSQL, Tomcat, and XDoclet.

"Each one of us partners has our own personal reasons [for leaving JBoss]," Code Developers Network partner Dain Sundstrom told internetnews.com. "In general, it comes down to the idea that we wanted to be involved with a company that was founded on the core values that we have up on our Web site."

Those core values include integrity, openness, fairness, quality, profitability, flexibility and being constructive.

"A few of our partners have offered support through the JBoss Group LLC in the past, but for various reasons have concluded that their professional aspirations would be better served outside of the JBoss Group LLC," the company said in its statement

The group added: "We want to emphasize that our partners will continue to provide the same responsive, high-quality technical support as we have always done. The founding of Core Developers Network simply signals the natural emergence of competition in the marketplace. We hope that broadening the range of service options for open source projects will raise the level of support available and lead to even greater adoption of these core technologies."

But Sabrin attributed the move to ego.

"People's egos get in the way," he said. "It's the same reason a lawyer leaves a law firm when he's a partner to start a competing firm. It's business."

"It really is not a big deal," Code Developers Network partner Jeremy Boynes told internetnews.com, echoing Sabrin's sentiments. "This type of thing happens in service industries on a periodic basis. It's unusual in the open source space, but in other industries it is not that unusual."

However, Boynes said that the new company is really about answering a demand that customers are clamoring for.

"We don't believe that in the enterprise, Java, open source space there is another company offering the type of service package that we can bring to the table," he said. "The integration challenge remains huge for large customers."

Sundstrom added that Code Developers Network can help enterprise customers bring together open source applications and make it work, allowing those customers to take maximum advantage of open source technologies.

Sabrin also said that he is not concerned that the developers who broke away will take consulting customers with them. "There was only a very small percentage of our customers that were exposed to these people," he said. He also noted that he doesn't view Core Developers Network as a competitor for JBoss Group. "I don't view this as a competing entity whatsoever," he said. "They're just another consulting company that is trying to make a buck off of open source, whereas we are the professional open source company behind JBoss."

But Boynes said, "We have had a lot of interest from enterprise software customers and from OEMs. They are crying out for the type of service that we are offering and we are talking to them. We do have customers right now. We'll have enterprise references ready [at JavaOne next week]."

The founding partners of the new company include:

  • Dain Sundstrom, author of CMP/JBOss, an implementation of the CMP 2.0 specification for JBoss 3
  • David Jencks, author of the distributed transaction manager and the JCA subsystem for JBoss, as well as the JMX tags for XDoclet; he also worked with webMethods on the integration of JBoss into the webMethods Integration Platform
  • Greg Wilkins, developer of the Jetty http server and servlet container, the default Web container in the JBoss server
  • Remigio Chirino, principle developer of JMS/JBoss and developer of the first iteration of the Aspect-based infrastructure for JBoss 4.0.
  • James Strachan, co-founder of the Jelly, dom4j, jaxen and saxpath projects, and member of the Apache Jakarta Project Management Committee as well as several Java specification committees
  • Jeremy Boynes, member of the JBoss 4 Persistence Team and maintainer of CMP/JBoss
  • Jules Gosnell, who worked on the integration of Jetty into JBoss in November, 2000.

The group said it still has Concurrent Versions System , or CVS, commit priveleges on the JBoss Project, as well as the Jetty, Apache, Jakarta and XDoclet projects.

"We are fully committed to the Project," Boynes said. We will continue to work on JBoss and the technologies around it. We want it to be the best application server on the market."

The partners said they will continue to support the project via the jboss-development and jboss-users mailing lists at SourceForge.net, as well as on other open public forums. "Unfortunately, the forums on jboss.org are a commercial venue for the JBoss Group LLC, and therefore we will not be participating in them," Core Developers Network said.

Sabrin said JBoss Group has no current plans to revoke the defectors' CVS priveleges, saying time will tell whether they live up to their commitments to continue contributing to the JBoss code.

"I think having multiple firms in the marketplace is good for the customer base and it's good for the technology," Boynes said.

JBoss Server, which boasts more than 150,000 downloads per month, is free and many companies are beginning to embed the application server in their products. JBoss Group subsidizes the development of the application server with commercial activities which include training, support, consulting and documentation, and management of the JBoss software affiliates program.

In March, the company decided that those commercial activities were enough for it to justify offerring economic interest options to 37 developers, and even cash bonuses to many of them. The options and bonuses were based on contributions to the JBoss application server in 2002 and earlier.