Sun, JBoss Bury Hatchet on J2EE Spat

After refusing to pay Sun Microsystems licensing
fees for its Java test certification kit, open source consultancy JBoss
Group has buried the hatchet and ponied up in order to gain a J2EE certification.

The two companies had been involved in a long-running, acrimonious
debate over licensing fees for the JBoss application server software.
After calling off talks earlier this year, the two companies finally got
back to
the negotiating table in June
, which led to today’s agreement.

JBoss Group officials said the deal was deliberately timed to
coincide with Sun’s overall marketing strategy to tout the inclusiveness
of the Java community as it announced the approval of J2EE v1.4 Tuesday
afternoon. The new specification will be available as a free download
here Monday.

The agreement helps end a long-running spat between Sun — which
controls the J2EE compatibility program — and JBoss Group CEO Marc
Fleury. Fleury has said before that his company, which provides
consulting and implementation services around the JBoss open-source
application server software, is an open-source entity and shouldn’t
have to pay for the six-digit licensing fee.

Negotiators at Sun have since the beginning maintained JBoss Group is a
for-profit organization and doesn’t qualify for open source exemptions.
Tuesday’s announcement is something of a flip-flip, then, and
vindication for JBoss Group since Sun has now openly acknowledged them
as an open source organization.

With Sun’s Java test certification kit (JCK) now in hand, JBoss Group
becomes one of the last major vendors in the industry that is now on
board with J2EE compatibility. The certification could help JBoss
overcome reluctance it could face with potential customers over its lack
of J2EE compliance sticker.

JBoss agreed to pay the full licensing fee for a standalone TCK that
comes with branding and support contracts. The contracts are in place
so companies don’t market their applications before certifying it
through the test kit.

But JBoss gave no signal that all would be rosy between the two
companies going forward. JBoss executives feel Sun has been holding off
on signing the TCK for months to coincide with the release of J2EE 1.4,
which Sun plans to announce later today.

“I can’t imagine another reason, maybe they wanted to have their
reference implementation out first; I have no idea,” said Bob Bickel,
JBoss Group vice president of strategy and corporate development.

“We’re going to move forward — the whole idea is to get commonality
across J2EE and make it easier for people to move (it), and I think that
it really plays towards our strengths.”

The deal also brings one of the last holdouts into the Java Community
Process (JCP), a community where developers and companies work to make
new Java applications compatible.

While the JBoss Group has had employees as members for years, and even
officially joined the JCP back in September, its exclusion from full J2EE
compatibility was seen as a dissenting voice within the Java community.

Many developers want a unified Java voice in order to compete against
Microsoft’s .NET Web services framework.

But the JBoss Group’s most compelling reason for signing a deal with Sun
is being able to stamp a “fully J2EE compliant” sticker on its software
to entice enterprise IT managers to switch to the open-source
application server.

Now that the two are, at least for the time being, on the same team, the
question is will they play well together? The long term benefits for the
two companies are really quite limited, said John Meyer, Giga Research
analyst.

“For JBoss it will legitimize what it is they have done and I think for
Sun it should hopefully alleviate some of the pain relative to
organizations wondering about the clout that the JCP has,” he said.

“Long term is it going to change much? I don’t think so,” he said. “At
least what this shows is that the majority of the vendors that are in
place are in alignment with the fact that there needs to be consortium
and I think JBoss was the last one hanging out there.”

When asked whether past events between Sun and JBoss Group now in the
past Bickel laughed. “Water under the bridge? We’re always friends, we
just disagree.”

JBoss is one of two major “open source” development houses certifying
the new J2EE version. Sun also announced Tuesday the inclusion of the
Apache Software Foundation, which just
started development
on its own application server software under the
Apache Geronimo project. The project isn’t expected to be completed
until sometime next year.

Geronimo would compete against JBoss’ own application server, as well as
those created by proprietary software vendors. Sun itself is getting
into the free application server software race, and will include a
developer’s version of Sun’s Java System Application Server 8 Platform
Edition with the J2EE v1.4 download

Updates prior version to remove incorrect licensing fee

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