Microsoft, JBoss Hook Up in Unlikely Partnership
by Alex Woodie
If you thought the partnership between Microsoft and Sun Microsystems made for strange bedfellows, you are likely doing a double take with this week's unveiling of new-found friendliness between Microsoft and JBoss, which not only develops in Sun's Java language, but also distributes its software under an open source license. The companies say that by cooperating, they can make JBoss Enterprise Middleware System (JEMS) work better on Windows server, which will make their joint customers happier.
JBoss, along with database developer MySQL, are the poster children for open source software. After incorporating just last year, JBoss has quickly positioned itself and its stack of Web application middleware as a less expensive and more flexible alternative to "pricey, monolithic proprietary software stacks," which refers to its primary competitors in the middleware marketplace: IBM's WebSphere, BEA Systems' WebLogic, and, of course, Microsoft and its Windows Server and .NET.
As part of yesterday's announcement, JBoss and Microsoft have committed to providing "technical assistance and architectural guidance" on cooperative projects, including: hooking JEMS into Active Directory to provide single sign-on and federated identity management; optimizing performance of JBoss' Hibernate and Enterprise JavaBeans software on SQL Server; providing better interoperability through support for the WS* Web services standards; and creating management packs for Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM)--presumably a JEMS management pack, although the announcement didn't spell out the specifics.
While "co-opetition" is nothing new to the IT marketplace, the partnership raises some interesting questions. For example, why would JBoss, whose products and practices are diametrically opposed to Microsoft's products and practices, partner with Microsoft, which competes fiercely against open source platforms like JEMS and Linux, and against Java alternatives like WebSphere and WebLogic?
The answer is simple, at least from JBoss' point of view: about half of the 500 organizations currently running JEMS, run the software on Windows servers.
"With nearly half our customer base deploying JEMS on Windows Server, either solely or in conjunction with other platforms, it makes sense for us to provide the best experience possible for our mutual customers," says Shaun Connolly, vice president of product management at JBoss.
One joint JBoss-Microsoft customer benefiting from the new relationship is the Swedish Medical Center, a Seattle hospital that recently implemented FSG's FirstGateways physician portal, which incorporates JEMS on Windows. Dale Will, director of product development for FCG, says increased cooperation between Microsoft and JBoss "is a great thing from our perspective because it allows us to take advantage of the increased reliability and simplified administration available on the Windows platform, while addressing the challenges facing customers running mixed environment."
The benefits to Microsoft are a bit cloudier. Here's how Bill Hilf, director of platform technology strategy at Microsoft, rationalizes the partnership: "JBoss is experiencing tremendous growth and is a driving force of consolidation of the Java space. So it makes sense to work with them on interoperability and optimizing for the Windows Server platform."
That statement could be interpreted in any number of ways. There are many companies experiencing "tremendous growth" and "driving consolidation" on a number of platforms. Is Microsoft looking to partner with each of them, even if they compete directly with Microsoft and Windows?
Is a partnership between Microsoft and the German firm MySQL next? MySQL is an increasingly popular alternative to SQL Server for those organizations trying to implement an open source software stack. It runs on Windows (It's even certified on some versions of Windows.), but it's vastly more popular on Linux.
If being a good technology owner is so important to Microsoft, perhaps it will partner with Red Hat and SuSE, to help customers running a mix of open-source software and Windows handle integration issues? Are versions of SQL Server and Exchange Server that run on Linux out of the question? Or releasing Windows to the open source community?