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JBoss Moves Into Systems Management, Delivers Seam 1.0

Published: June 13, 2006

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

Open source middleware juggernaut JBoss, now part of Linux distributor Red Hat, is hosting its second annual--and perhaps final--JBoss World customer and partner event in Las Vegas, coinciding with the 10-millionth download of its JBoss Enterprise Middleware Suite (JEMS). Having secured its position in the middleware space and been acquired by financially secure Red Hat, now JBoss is pumped to move out from the middle into the systems management space and to establish, through the Seam project, itself as the framework for Web 2.0 applications.

Like Red Hat with its eponymous Red Hat Network for supporting and patching customers, JBoss had created an automated service called the JBoss Operations Network that allows system administrators and application developers to use the ON tools to keep track of, tweak, monitor, and update the elements of the JEMS middleware stack, the applications they create that run on top of this stack, and all of the infrastructure that runs underneath this stack. According to Sacha Labourey, chief technology officer at JBoss, the formerly independent JBoss and its new owner, Red Hat, have no intention of trying to create a giant systems management program like IBM has done with Tivoli, Hewlett-Packard has done with OpenView, or CA has done with Unicenter. At least not by themselves. Rather, JBoss is releasing the systems management agent that is the key component of the JBoss ON service and expects other companies to create agents and extend the framework into a rich system management tool.

"We do not intend to be a company that will provide hundreds of agents," explained Labourey. "We want to provide a management infrastructure and then have a network of partners that will provide the agents."

The JBoss ON service itself is not completely homegrown, according to Labourey. It is based on code created by JBoss, but also includes a considerable injection of software from Hyperic, a provider of open source systems management software that is based in San Francisco. Hyperic's HQ product was itself built using JBoss middleware, and it can find just about any operating system, database, or application server, plus other common components such as VMware hypervisors or Citrix Systems Metaframe client/server middleware. Labourey says that the JBoss ON code will be open sourced under a mix of GNU GPL and LGPL licenses.

Hyperic was founded in March 2004 by former members of the Apache Web server project who used to work for Covalent Technologies, and ironically, Hyperic was trying to do in the systems management space what Red Hat did for Linux and JBoss did for middleware: Basically, take over that market through an open source distribution/services revenue model with software that is enterprise ready. Hyperic inked an OEM agreement with JBoss in August 2005 that gave JBoss the right to redistribute the HQ code. Why Red Hat doesn't just buy Hyperic, which is a privately held company, is unclear. But it probably makes sense if Red Hat wants to be able to keep the open source systems management community it is trying to cultivate from forking.

In addition to diving into the systems management space, JBoss also announced the general availability of Seam 1.0, which Red Hat describes as the first Web 2.0 framework to try to bridge, unify, and simplify all of the disparate programming models that have all, in their turn, promised to make programming of Web applications easier.

You know all of the acronyms by heart, but let's just go over them to be thorough. Seam 1.0 supports Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (Ajax), Java Server Faces (JSF), Enterprise JavaBeans 3.0 (EJB), Java portlets, as well as coping with business process management and workflow. At JavaOne last month, JBoss proposed a standard Web Beans specification to the Java Community Process, JSR-299, and Labourey says that Seam 1.0 largely fulfills the role that this proposed Web Beans spec aims to solve. In plain English, Seam is a means of using simpler Web front end languages based on XML, JavaScript, and other technologies to link into back-end Java applications based on EJB-compliant transactional code and Java EE 5 application servers. Seam is distributed under the GNU LGPL license and works with any application server that supports EJB 3.0.

Red Hat also wants to help companies that want to get into the software as a service, or SaaS, racket, and to that end JBoss also announced a certified SaaS program. One of the big problems with shifting from application licensing to a SaaS deliver model is that when business takes off, systems can't always keep up. And heavy transaction loads even among a stable end user base can cause crashes and other scalability and response time issues. So JBoss has created the certification program that uses testing tools and methodologies it has created for customers who created SaaS deployments so they won't run out of gas. Companies are being encouraged, of course, to subscribe to the JBoss Operations Network to monitor the health of their SaaS systems and provision infrastructure as they need it. JBoss has previously offered certification programs for its application server and for Hibernate, the part of the JEMS software stack that provides persistence for Java applications that tickle relational databases.



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Editors: Dan Burger, Timothy Prickett Morgan, Alex Woodie
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