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Steve Loughran:

"The rationale for Geronimo over JBoss was that it would be more open, less vulnerable to the whims of its owner vendor. Instead, even though IBM haven't bought ownership of the Geronimo code, they do own the core developers. And every contribution made by third parties in the OSS codebase ends up benefiting the IBM distro. That is the price of the BSD license: you don't need to publish your additions, but everyone else has the same right. Which is precisely why (L)GPL makes so much sense for startups trying to retain control of their software. MIT/BSD/Apache licenses are good for universal adoption, but not retaining control of "strategic" technologies."

The point about careful choice of OSS licence in order to manage strategic versus tactical technologies is a fascinating one - I haven't heard it put that way before.

IBM might have decided to see that the writing on the wall for J2EE WebSphere is that the revenue model is as likely to be disrupted from the bottom by OSS as anywhere else. Having a stake in the disruption allows them to manage the rate of decay for WebSphere both at the level of the market and with individual customers who may be wondering about which level of sophistication and what 'ilities' they require. Like a lot of moves IBM makes with open source, it's strategically smart. Next thing you know, they'll be buying Interface21.

"Where then, is the moral high ground of the Apache Geronimo stack? I think Jonas has it. It also makes me worry that Apache is, through no action of its own, going to be perceived as a tool of IBM in its ongoing war with Sun, and now, JBoss. But that is, in its own way, a metric of how OSS is transforming the Java and app server economy."

JONAS has its fair share of technical high-ground also. It was clear enough 18 months ago that ObjectWeb were keeping their heads down and working on stability and maturity while the Geronimo and JBoss stacks were either competing on incidental architecture features or looking to do rewrites. For example, JORAM is probably the most solid open source JMS provider available (whereas ActiveMQ is still meeting its potential and JBossMQ is going to be second systemed by JBossMessaging).

As for the impact on the ASF, or the ASF being used as a weapon, Geronimo went into the Apache incubator project with a lot of public bad blood with respect to JBoss. There was that bizarre Elba source interregnum and various accusations around source code origination, sufficient to get the laywers' pens out. Community being bigger than individuals is a core ASF value - ideally you're not meant to to be able to buy out ASF run projects or end depending on a single commercial entity to secure the project's committer base. If all the core developers for Geronimo worked for Gluecode and now work for IBM, as Steve suggests then the ASF maybe needs to broaden the committer base to meet its mission. As I understand the Apache way, that should have been set in place during incubation, and be carried on through the PMC.

May 12, 2005 02:39 AM


Parand Tony Darugar
(May 13, 2005 04:46 AM #)
IBM might have decided to see that the writing on the wall for J2EE WebSphere is that the revenue model is as likely to be disrupted from the bottom by OSS as anywhere else.

IBM is very focused on consulting and services revenue, which was something like $46B last year. The app server portion of Websphere is simply a tool in their battle with other vendors such as BEA. In most of their larger deals they throw it in for free and charge for consulting. As such, they're not really worried about its revenue stream.

IBM is very well positioned to support open source projects because it fits with their revenue model: charge for service rather than software. If they can prove their expertise with an OSS product, which they surely can when they employ many/all of the core developers, they're positioned exactly as they want to be.

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