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marc fleury's Blog

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I will join the fray with this attempt to give a crisper product definition to Enterprise 2.0, mapping to Red Hat and JBoss products, and introducing the concept of the "Digital Foundation."

 

Digital Foundation == (Virtualization + SOA + Web2.0)^OSS.

 

VIRTUALIZATION. Virtualization of the computing environment is a clear trend in the industry. RHEL5 will provide support for Virtualized Linux. For some Linux system administrators virtualization already means virtualized disk space. Being able to manage your storage independently of your applications or operating system has been the norm in the industry for 15 years. Virtualized partitions are graphically assembled with tools. Configuring RAID support (Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks) is as simple as pressing play in these virtualized environments. If you have played with these tools, you know how intuitive and flexible they are. Virtualization also has impacted development models. Java is based on the availability of virtual machines. Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) provide developers with portability across operating systems. That is one of the biggest benefits. The virtualization of the runtime environment also provides niceties such as advanced programming features such as built in garbage collection or extensible bytecode format. Java is today one of the most successful programming environments because it is built on virtual machines which give it portability, flexibility and the ability to evolve.

 

SOA. SOA is well understood and past the buzzword stage today. Most large IT shops are doing SOA in one way or another. At one level SOA, technically speaking, is about availability of the data from any point in a network. From another standpoint, it is about business demands and agility in responding to changes. I will focus on the product side here. With SOA, distributed data is available through programmatic interfaces, usually web services but many times in memory with replication underneath. Another very popular approach to SOA, instead of being data- or application-centric, is bus-centric. This view focuses on data distribution through Enterprise Service Buses (ESBs) and messaging, as well as the needed mapping between message formats that integrate the disparate functionality and data in one "computing cloud." SOA usually defines programming models to manipulate the data layer. JBoss ESB, for example, will support various component models. Whether you choose a bus-centric, event-based, or application-centric approach, many of you already use JBoss' suite of products to build these modular and evolutive architectures.

 

Focusing on the Application Server for a second, we can start with Hibernate. Hibernate works at the data layer and maps databases to memory. You can easily extract data from any database into Java objects and can easily store Java objects in databases without dealing with all the idiosyncrasies of said databases. It is a programmatic luxury that developers have grown used to. Object to Relational mapping (OR mapping) has become a ubiquitous commodity thanks to efforts like Hibernate and EJB3. EJB3 is a lightweight component model on top of a Hibernate-like data extraction layer (Java Persistence API).

 

You can also use alternative programming styles like rules or business process modeling. We offer JBoss Rules for rules-based applications and JBoss jBPM to model workflow- based applications. In the latter we support industry standard BPEL, our own native JPDL (jBPM Process Definition Language), or even a simple graphical design tool just in case you don't want to learn “yet another dialect of XML.” JBossCache enables easy distribution of datasets across your computing environments. It is based on JGroups and enables clustering and high availability of that data. You may choose to distribute the data with JBoss Messaging to move it where it is needed for computation or event-based programming. Finally, to coordinate all these layers you can use JBoss Transactions, a GPL'ed version of a high-end, previously proprietary transaction monitor. SOA today is a reality for a lot of our customers.

 

WEB 2.0. Web 2.0 is one of those words that is trying to say “The Web is rapidly growing up.” The Web as we know it, Web 1.0, is about 10 years old. It has had a symbiotic relationship with Open Source. Open source powers most of the Web (Linux, Apache, mySQL, PHP, JBoss, DNS, Bind, SendMail, etc.) and the Web has enabled the open source collaborative development model with tools such as CVS, wikis, forums and mailing lists. The Web has spawned new programming models. If the “Internet is the computer,” then the data is SOA and the application is Web2.0. For some, Web 2.0 means rich user interfaces, where buttons are buttons and widgets behave like real widgets. Like in the good old days when network-enabled meant client-server and we had fancy desktop applications, but with the Internet instead. This is more than lipstick on a pig; this is a true overhaul of the User Interfaces (UI) of the Internet age. We are being more and more clever about where data resides, where computation happens and how it is presented to users on the Net.

 

JBoss works and invests in many of the engines serving up “rich” content today. Both the Tomcat and APR (Apache Portable Runtime) projects are today led by JBoss employees. By the way, while I am on the topic of innovation, merge Tomcat and APR and you have JBoss Web, one of our latest product introductions. If you are familiar with Tomcat, you should think of JBossWeb as Tomcat on steroids, as it uses the native library in APR. If you are familiar with HTTPD, it is kind of the same but your Java data layer is already integrated in memory with your web engine. This should be a big plus for sys-admins who remember how tricky mod-jk’s configuration really is and for developers that can now deal with one object programming model across the board and in-memory.

 

Look to JBoss SEAM for a solid and state-of-the-art example of a web framework. For Java web application developers, at a high level, what SEAM does is merge the programming models of JSF and EJB3. SEAM does a neat job of integrating visual web-page flow management with the JBPM state machine. SEAM automatically manages web sessions for you, a source of many bugs with more junior developers. You can now visually describe your web-page flow and not have to worry too much about cleaning up after your session.

 

Ajax is the final leg of this stack. Ajax delivers data from the server to the browsers and vice versa. The point of Ajax is that it does so asynchronously as in Asynchronous Java Script (AJAX), see?. Your browser can go about the business of being a browser and you don't have to wait on blank pages when you use the Web. You can be proactive or selective about what gets displayed and when. It is one of these trivial features that changes the way you build and look at web applications. Much of the hype around Ajax is well deserved, although it needs a lot of complementary technology to make it actually work.

 

Finally with efforts like JBoss IDE, based on the Eclipse IDE environment, we are offering a complete and integrated development environment. From the nuts and bolts of transaction processing all the way up to the graphical Web2.0 tools, we focus on simplifying the developer's life as he or she builds modern Web 2.0 applications.

 

OSS. I am done describing our suite of products. Every large vendor has a stack. Every large vendor likes to talk about their stack, as I have just done. A big piece of the puzzle, in our case, is OSS. If Web 1.0 was OSS, do you want to bet that Web 2.0 will be proprietary? Not very likely! The Digital Foundation of Enterprise 2.0 is the suite of products described above TAKEN TO THE POWER OF OPEN SOURCE. Mathematically speaking, I have seen people mash up OSS and Web 2.0 or SOA in the same sentence by saying SOA + Web 2.0 + OSS, for example. To me they are not the same dimensions. OSS is not, strictly speaking, a product, but rather a methodology, a business model -- a way of delivering software. Some users will build their foundation on proprietary products that implement open standards. We implement open standards in open source. By going with Red Hat, you are bringing an OSS dimension to how you build and maintain your digital infrastructure. A second differentiator is that our open source stack is modular. We are not in the business of forcing the usage of every element in our stack. You pick and choose. Use Linux or JBoss, separately or together, as long as you use us, we are happy. As long as you buy a subscription to AT LEAST ONE of our products, we know we can only grow from there. Eventually a lot end up using JBoss AS as well. Whether you buy our subscription for Linux in order to run Oracle, run JBoss on Windows, or leverage Hibernate on WebSphere, it is all goodness to us.

 

In conclusion, I hope I have showed you that one way to understand the product dimension of Enterprise 2.0 is to talk about the Digital Foundation. At a minimum, the Digital Foundation comprises product categories such as Virtualization, SOA and Web 2.0. Open source is the methodology by which we develop, market and support our products. To become real, Enterprise 2.0 needs this Digital Foundation and the most-effective and customer-friendly way for it to be built and consumed is in open source.

 

Remember we love you,

 

marcf

Wall Street

 

The folks over at RHAT haven’t wasted time putting me to work. I just spent two weeks working with investors, touring with Dion Cornett, the VP of Investors Relations. I don’t know how he does it. I used to see investors as a private company, mainly due to the impact we had on public companies at the time, but nothing like what I went through recently -- roughly 60 investors in three days.

 

Summarizing the state of the company in 40 minutes slots was a learning experience. The message needs to be fairly simple, which is probably why it works. Essentially RHAT/JBoss is a new company. The association of the RHAT brand is not to a given market, say Linux, but rather to the business model that backs it up. The business model of OSS has been proven by RHAT over the years. It is time to generalize it to other markets, be it Middleware or most of infrastructure, really. We will be successful if in two years people associate the RHAT brand with the business model and not just Linux.

 

So what is the business model? Very simply, we transform the way software is developed, distributed and supported. I have covered these topics many times here before. BTW in the good read category for recent writing on the subject, check out Matt Asay, Larry Augustin and the circle of colleagues debating the theoretical limits of the OSS model.

 

I think it is obvious to many people why the collaborative methodologies of OSS transform software development. While there is no free lunch and there is still an economic price to this development, the upside is a highly leveraged development model where quality software and limited resources can achieve large-scale success. JBoss reached 1 million downloads when we were just 2 guys and a dog.

 

One of the nuances becoming increasingly clear to many insiders is that the power of the model rests in the extremely low cost of distribution and sales. We reach millions of folks with free distribution and then monetize this base. It is a very efficient way to acquire customers. The result is that we spend 30 cents for every dollar of maintenance revenue, while the competition, on average, spends $3 for every dollar that ultimately comes in as maintenance. The downside, compared to proprietary software, is that on average we only monetize 3% of our user base for JBoss and roughly 10% for Linux. This low cost of sales we achieve through mass distribution is what makes the model tick. The customer gets to make up his own mind as to whether the software is any good as opposed to having to go through the vendor’s pricey and biased salesforce. This enables the OSS enterprise sales force to be very effective since they mostly are targeting highly pre-qualified potential customers.

 

The last statement is one many consider obvious. We transform the way the industry does support. Why? Well, that is the only place where we make ANY money at all, so we better be good at it. End of story. If we are not; well, very simply, we will die. It is not entirely surprising that RHAT and JBoss get rewards for “quality of support”, it is WHAT WE DO. RHAT got awarded, two years in a row, the “best value” award by ‘CIO Magazine.’ This resonates with the Street at many levels, including the purely financial. The renewal rate we achieve year after year is what makes our business growth so attractive.

 

It is up to us to execute on this vision. If we succeed, we truly will become the defining technology company of the 21st century.

 

 

But what about Oracle?



 

In my visit with investors on the street, a lot of people inevitably want to know about Oracle. In case you missed it in the press (how could you?), Larry Ellison has been talking, on and off, these past few months about putting out an Oracle/Linux distribution. Of course people want to know if such an attack is coming and whether we are defensible against it. Some people believe our business model would roll over and die. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Whether “Oracle/Linux” is coming is anyone’s guess. Common sense says “it is NOT coming” but then, there is common sense and there is what Larry Ellison wants. It would appear that what Larry Ellison wants, Larry Ellison usually gets. However, between Oracle wanting a Linux distribution, their being able to credibly put one together and the ultimate impact this would have on the Linux marketplace, there are a lot of things going on.

 

First of all, there is the fact that today Oracle benefits greatly from RHAT and Linux in general. The relationship, so far, has been very productive for both parties, and there are still a lot of efforts underway. There are so many things we can do together, from working on Fusion/JEMS (Fusion incorporates JEMS projects like JGroups) to us providing an OS appliance for them to run on, so many possible avenues of collaboration. However, collaboration is generally boring to the press, while “Linux war” makes for much catchier headlines. Meanwhile, the reality is that we are continuing to work with Oracle on a variety of projects. I am personally a bit of a fan of Larry’s and I suspect that as soon the current wave of news passes it will quickly be back to normal. If that weren’t the case, I’m not too concerned either.

 

Let’s assume Oracle wants to introduce a NEW distribution, what analysts call “Oracle/Linux.” It would take time to assemble: you need Linux engineers, you need OS experience. You also need to build a support structure and you need to make it not suck. None of this says “Larry can’t do it” it is just that it is all easier said than done. For more background reading on this, and why it’s an uphill battle, read Trip Chowdhry of FTN Midwest Research’s evaluation report on this scenario.

 

In fact, the recent rhetoric from the press has now been toned down to “Oracle wants to redistribute and support RHEL instead”. From a distance it sounds like this is feasible as RHEL is GPL. However it is a bit more complicated than that, read Baird’s Steve Ashley’s note for excellent background reading on the topic. See, nowhere in the GPL is it said that we must distribute the software to you in the first place. Dion Cornett likes saying GPL != Public Domain. In fact, in the case of RHEL, RedHat doesn’t distribute it to anybody, not for free that is.

 

If you want to have the software, you must subscribe to RedHat Network (RHN) and if you redistribute the patches or RHEL (which you can) you must pay us for every instance, if you don’t, well, we are under no obligation to give you the future patches and upgrades, in other words, we cancel the RHN distribution to you and you are technically /forking/ RHEL.

 

Ok so let’s assume Oracle forks RHEL instead of assembling a new distribution, which would bypass the cost and time described in the above paragraph. IT IS STILL A NEW DISTRIBUTION, technically it is not RHEL and the second he does this, it is not the same product. In fact, the applications that are certified on RHEL will not be certified on the fork.

 

There are many factors working to our advantage in this particular scenario. First RHAT has an enormous ecosystem of certified applications. In the Operating System world, the leading “standard” has a practically insurmountable advantage due to positive feedback loops. Think Microsoft vs Apple: more users = more apps and more apps = more users, and so on in a virtuous feedback loop. By the same token, Sun won the Unix wars back in the early 90’s by developing the “catalyst,” an extensive catalog of partner ISVss that gave them the advantage. The same dynamic is at play in the Linux market, the certification programs are key. I believe that feedback loop represent a virtual game-over; it is too advanced and too stable a mechanism by now. Sun couldn’t get it going with Sun/Linux and IBM couldn’t get it going with OS/2 and IBM/Novell couldn’t get it going with Suse. In fact IBM just released a version of Lotus Notes for Linux and made it available on RHEL first with “support for Suse to come in 90 days.” The ISVs and IHVs are supporting RHEL because that is where the largest portion of the paying Linux market is. ISVs go where the customer is and vice versa. It would take a whole lot of time and money for ORCL to duplicate this momentum and they don’t know whether the customer wants or will take it.

 

And that is really what counts at the end of the day. Does anyone REALLY want this? Does ANYONE REALLY WANT ANOTHER LINUX DISTRIBUTION IN THE ENTERPRISE MARKET? Please raise your hands. It turns out in a recent study, that 2% of ORCL’s installed base would want ORCL/LINUX from ORCL… Interesting, no? If Oracle’s existing customers don’t really need a Linux distro from them can you imagine what that picture looks like for those that are not already in the Oracle customer fold? It is not clear that ANYONE really wants this third distribution in the enterprise market.

 

Since RHAT has no partner that represents more than 10% of its business and only 2% of Oracle’s own customers say they would buy this, would RHAT really feel the impact? Did someone mention OS/2? I believe our business model is defensible.

 

Ironically, knowing how smart Larry and his organization all are, it’s a safe guess they know all of this. For the record, sitting down with one of the 10 richest men on the planet to discuss “meta-data” structures was an enjoyable experience I am grateful to have had. Larry probably knows we wouldn’t hurt at a business level, and that he cannot take on RHEL in a frontal product war. Or, maybe he doesn’t care. He’s also right about the software industry being in a phase of consolidation. For all of you conspiracy theorists out there, the most entertaining scenario is that all this talk about an Oracle Linux distribution in the press is just a FUD campaign to scare RHAT investors and customers and impact our valuation, a la the Siebel/PeopleSoft playbook. The possibility of acquiring RHAT at a discount (and JBoss for nothing ☺ ) would be tempting indeed, if it did not entail the risk of forcing the hand of the other big players at the table.

Game Theory: a Nash Equilibrium of the enterprise software industry

 

So, today, we are in an interesting situation. RHAT is being perceived as the new kid on the block in the big leagues. Some label us a new “Microsoft”— conveniently forgetting how, in open source as opposed to proprietary software, the inherent checks and balances limit the establishment of anything resembling a conventional monopoly. I, for one, believe that no one has an interest in moving against us here. The ecosystem of open source is a stable environment because of something akin to a Nash Equilibrium. If Oracle moves, what do you think IBM, HP or Microsoft would do? Short of a software industry equivalent of the Hitler/Stalin pact (and we all know how short a honeymoon that ultimately would be), it would really be unwise for Oracle to take that risk as it would only set up a replay of the Unix wars, but this time with Linux.

 

I believe the future of professional open source probably will be this large INDEPENDENT open source vendor. We are in the top 5 among the large infrastructure vendors, after IBM, Oracle, SUN and Microsoft. They may not like it, but if they move, the ensuing Linux wars will ultimately only benefit Microsoft and RHAT, just as, outside of Microsoft, Sun was the only beneficiary of the Unix Wars, which they used to consolidate their position. Why upset a situation that currently works to everyone’s advantage?

 

I believe we are seeing a Nash Equilibrium in action. If there is a set of strategies with the property that no player can benefit by changing his or her strategy while the other players keep their strategies unchanged, then that set of strategies and the corresponding payoffs constitute the Nash Equilibrium. A simple way to describe this is the popular saying “nobody move and nobody gets hurt”. Some companies may not like the fact that RedHat declared independence by buying JBoss. But it was bound to happen and everybody is going to have to live with it. We have created the largest, independent OSS company and the business model of OSS is growing. A bright future awaits us and our partners, and there is enough open source goodness to go around for everybody.

 

marcf

marc fleury

We are still here

Posted by marc fleury Aug 4, 2006

 

So it has been a long time since I last blogged. Basically the closing happened and then it seems I went into deep freeze for a little while. I needed this break. Problem is it looked like I disappeared from the industry, pulling my gig and retiring to the beach.

 

One of the albums I have been listening to over and over this summer is Parts Unknown III, Subject Detroit by a DJ called DJ Bone. It is pure Detroit electronic music in a sense, melody is usually great and soulful, wrapped in some of the hardest beat driven music. If you are new to techno, this isn’t exactly the easiest stuff to listen to, but if you like electronic music and want to hear what I believe is one of the best albums of the year, then buy this one. Warning: it is not for the faint of heart, but an album that REALLY grows on you, good luck it is a candy in store and a great techno compilation.

 

Anyhoo, the reason I am talking about this is that one of the songs on there made me think about our situation and whether people thought that we had sold out and gone to the beach. Not all of the lyrics apply one to one obviously but this is pretty good. The song is “music” by DJ Bone #28 and #29 on CD2. It is read more than it is sung on a wonderful background track by a guy called “A guy called Gerald” (serious) and if you guys remember him he was one of the early techno pioneers in 1988 with a seminal track called “Voodoo Ray” (wow, 20 years ago... I am getting old). The track he wrote here is unreleased and was specifically written for DJ Bone, it is one of the many great passages of the album.

 

Here are the lyrics… Mr Darryl Taft, I would like to dedicate this to you. Not only does DJ Bone physically remind of you (check out the pictures above) but one can draw so many parallels from the “music” to “the code” and what you call “being a JBossian”. Be passionate about what you do. As you guessed, Darryl I DO own a lot of Sly and the Family stone records, love the guy, and the mood may very well be “thank you for letting me be myself… again”. Thanks Darryl for the great coverage you have given us over the years. Here goes.

 


The music,

 

It was all about the music
we used to listen to music
I remember how we used to love music

 

it was our escape, our sanctuary
it was a good times
it was soulful
it was funky

 

what happened to the music?

 

I remember all this dance
no lights
no fights
just soul
all soul.

 

Surrounded by friends
strangers were friends
we didn’t care
it was all about the music.

 

No worries no troubles
no problems
no drugs
just music

 

what happened to the music?
what happened to the soul?
where is the soul?

 

True art form..
bastardized
reshaped, repackaged
watered down

 

sold out.
What happened to the soul?
It sold out….
He he he
The soul sold out.

 

Soul makers,
We are still here
we still here
we still here.

 

We live for this shit
this is our SHIT
this is what we feel
this is how we work
It’s an expression of why we act the way we do.
It is not a gimmick, this ain’t no hype,

 

Are you funky with the machines?
or do the machines make you funky?
who programs who?
do the machines program you?

 

This is our life
this is our love, our passion
this is history

 

Ignore it … history
ignore it and insult it
disrespect it
for fame, short fame
and short money.

 

Hope it was worth it.

 

I'm back from Java One. It was truly a GREAT conference. The conference was packed, there were lines for the restrooms like in 1999. The energy at the conference was high, very high. The showfloor was PACKED! People were rubbing shoulders and what a stark contrast to the other years. It reminded me of the crowds and excitement of the mythical 1999/2000 J1s. Sun claims this year was the largest J1 ever in terms of attendance.

 

I think the technical innovation fueled a great talk line up. After all there is complete renaissance of the programming models with EE5/EJB3 on the tech front so there was a lot to cover. I hear that the sessions with 1000 attendees were full, lines waiting to get in, sessions being duplicated and rumors of sweat on the walls at the end of sessions. JBoss showed up in force on the speaker front and we provide many of the more popular sessions. To see the simplification and unification of programming models in time for Web2.0 bodes well for the future of Java.

 

All in all, J1 is once again the GREAT conference it once was and it was a very pleasant surprise to see this revival of one of our favorite industry event.

 

Our favorite of course is JBossWorld. If you have missed J1 this year or you want to dive deeper into what was covered at J1, DO NOT DESPAIR, COME TO JBOSSWORLD. As you may know, JBoss has contributed heavily to the EE standard and continues to lead with innovation. A lot of our sessions really cover and expand on the new EE5 theme. For example, we recently announced the "WebBeans" JSR, inspired by Gavin's work in SEAM, which will unify and extend the JSF/EJB3 programming models. Let us show you how are fully integrated frameworks building on the modern EE5 infrastructure deliver what is probably one of the best development experiences of the industry.JEMS today with its integration of AS, Hibernate, EJB3, cache, jBPM, workflow, rules, transactions, web, portal and management is an ideal platform to develop modern web-applications using the latest and simplest technology and frameworks.

 

JBoss World Las Vegas will build on all these announcements, cover them from a product standpoint and equip you with knowledge you can start using to develop your next-gen applications today.

 

As I mentioned in previous blogs, this year we have a lot of our customers presenting what they have done with JBoss. What better way to learn how people are leveraging our technology at every stage of adoption. We will be highlighting the "Innovation Awards" and I believe you will enjoy the format of our conference

 

I know JBossWorld will be the best conference all around. The only knock down this year at J1, was the percieved lack of good parties (except our own of course). As you all know, we are being acquired by Red Hat and this conference will be an inflexion point for us. It is a unique moment in our company history really. I truly believe it will have a one-time feel to it and I suspect you want to be part of it, a part of our history. We will make it enjoyable.

 

Finally, if you need one more argument before you go running to your bosses begging them to let you go to Vegas, you should know that we take our geekiness very seriously. We will also be giving the COOLEST CONFERENCE BAG *EVER*. We just received the new model for this year and I get to use the first model. And as much as the Java One bag were really nice this year, with their shiny orange color and what not, I truly believe THIS BAG IS THE SHIZZLE. It will set the bar and example for all other conferences to follow, mark my words :).

 

You need to come if you missed J1 or as a follow on to J1; you need to come to get the product view of the new frameworks and the implications of everything that was announced at J1 so that you can use it TODAY; you need to come to see the innovation we are coming out with; and you need to come to hear our business direction and how it will help you build better JBoss solutions and how we will help you manage them in production.

 

And while the last argument has nothing to do with work, you need to come because we will party it up in LAS VEGAS Baby!

 

Peace, Love, Deep Tech, Cool Parties and Great Bags.

 

marcf

 

JBoss World Las Vegas will take place June 12-15 at the RIO hotel

 

 

 

If you haven't reserved your pass, do so and do so quickly. It is going to be a special event for all of us. I truly believe it will have that "one time" feel to it. Expect some serious work time and some very serious play time. I know it is going to be a great event and I am personally very excited about it.

 

On business side we have grown tremendously in the past year. We made promises at the inaugural JBoss World Atlanta a year ago and we have delivered on them, most notable JBoss ON, the Operations Network. As a combined entity with RedHat, (with an expected closing in the next few weeks) we will be in a position to talk more about our integration plans. As a combined entity RedHat and JBoss will transform the infrastructure software industry in the coming months and years. We also have a few blockbuster announcements, but shhhh. You want to be there to hear about it first!

 

We have a very strong showing of partners. I want to thank HP and Unisys for their renewed premier sponsorships of the event. We have expanded our relationships with both companies during the past year and will be covering some of that. The business of Open Source is expanding and you will also get to see some of the more exciting startups in the open source field have a strong presence as sponsors of the event. JBoss is expanding its programs to enable our ISV partners. JEMS is a standard platform for modern SOA applications and we are committed to making our partners successful.

 

Last but not least Microsoft Corp, will be joining us at JBoss World Las Vegas. After the news of the acquisition, MSFT wanted to sponsor JBoss World Las Vegas. They will be sponsoring an XBOX 360 LOUNGE at the show.

 

See, I got a bad gaming addiction. We will have 3 screens and 3 machines in the XBoss lounge. I will take ON any wannabees in the audience in Need For Speed, Madden, FightNight or Call of Duty. Yeeeees you beat me at the Rubik's Cube last year, but can you beat me at Need For Speed? I don't think so!

 

Naturally, the program is also very tech heavy, as our pipe of products is full. JBossWorld LV will be particularly interesting from a product standpoint this year. As we continue working towards building out our SOA platform, you will get to see all of our technical and product roadmaps and interact on a one-on-one basis with our lead developers. Of course all of our superstar line-up will be there, including Gavin in his red velvet jacket and Mark Proctor in his “steroid” shirt, you can't miss them.

 

BTW, as an "observer" of what goes on in our "Technical Board of Directors" (called TBoD), let me tell you that I was taken aback recently by the sheer volume of innovation and products coming out. We are blowing it out in terms of tech this year. I will probably need to attend sessions, when not playing the XBOX, just to catch up on everything that is going on in this company.

 

There are many presentations done by our community as well. We had MANY last year and they were VERY well received. So this year we repeat and we will big it up with the Innovations Awards. I covered the fun I had reviewing them in a separate blog already. I believe that some of the highlights of the show will be right there with our customers talking about what they have done with JBoss technology. Pretty fancy implementations from high-end clustering environments, clever applications, to some head-turning ROI stories.

 

Like I said, not only is it going to be a one time event for our company, but hell... it's Vegas, baby! You don't want to miss my "Elvis" impersonation (filmed yesterday) and I hope to see you there.

 

Remember we love you,

 

marcf

 

Over the noise of a small propeller aircraft the other day, Matthew Szulik told me that a lot of Red Hat's success came from putting their customers first. It was funny to me, first I hate flying (and I hate small planes even worse), but I was thinking about how I always thought of my employees first. If they are happy, the customer should be happy. Anyway, I was paying attention. This was the day we announced Red Hat's definitive agreement to acquire JBoss, and we were flying back to Raleigh.

 

Three weeks later, I saw the JBoss Innovations award press release come over the wire and get announced on our own internal lists. The organization was excited about this event. Getting positive customer feedback is very gratifying across the organization.

 

I remember vividly when I reviewed the submissions one afternoon, in the middle of the stressful negotiations we were going through. It was a good pause in the middle of the madness. I sat down with Rebecca Goldstein, who headed the project, and she handed me a neat package of entries to review. They came in from around the world. Five minutes into the process I really started to enjoy it and I am really looking forward to meeting the winners, who are all invited to the awards event at JBoss World Las Vegas. It should be a cool show :).

 

 

We tried to evaluate projects along many dimensions, economic, business, innovation etc. I was personally excited to see so many DNA-focused companies, large and small use our technology and submit this year. I like to read about that field in Nature magazine and we seem to be helping in the process of high-speed DNA screening. I did not know that! It is a great example of an SOA application enabled by JBoss technology and pricing :) May your farms be fruitful with JBoss!

 

Among other examples, JBoss technology is currently part of the effort being made to improve the Florida state electoral system, you know as in "accurate counting". Another extremely courageous and clever application was about MASSIVELY STREAMLINING bureaucracy processes using JBoss jBPM. I think it may have won its category, actually. If anything I will personally award it the "Serious Cojones" award.

 

 

Another interesting point this year was the fact that so many big company names submitted. I was happy reading what people do out there with our stuff. Reading what an ADP, Cendant, or a Kroger does (and the list goes on), gives pause. The depth of implementation and dimensions of benefit you are all reporting at this level were great news and very interesting data-points. It is nice to see systemic results reported from the field. Dollar impact was of course a key metric by which these corporate submissions were ultimately judged.

 

The higher figures were usually GENERATED in business benefit (as opposed to saved) and this was reported across medium and large businesses. Medium companies actually reported some of the best numbers through systemic and aggressive usage of JBoss. Glad to see many of you praise our organization's help and realizing big benefits from your bet on JBoss.

 

The category of clustering, while stand-alone, actually spilled across the other categories. From high-speed, massively parallel DNA screening farms to high-end corporate environments, you were all reporting some very large-scale and sophisticated usage of JBoss. These are really state-of-art installations you are all running. Thanks for pushing the envelope, we are glad we can help you unlock the true power and economics of your software applications with Open Source and JBoss.

 

 

I remember the research category. I actually started with it. Annotations applied to the problem a Domain Specific Languages was popular research topic this year. It deserves to be for many more years and I was glad to see that "custom annotations" was starting to be perceived as an efficient and API-intuitive way to work and program. It is a good one and deserves more attention from SI practitioners. I believe it impacts integration programming models. Entries there usually made use of the raw modules, EJB3, SEAM, AO, JBPM, JGROUPS. I think the winner is a fantastic entry in terms of impact of annotation-driven languages to a particular vertical consulting domain. It was applied research, reporting very positive findings in the field. I am proud of the quality of the submissions.

 

Best in Show: well, we haven't selected the Best in Show. This honor will go to the attendance of JBoss World Las Vegas, the winners will present in different tracks and you pick the overall winners. Remember innovation in this case is not just technical innovation, innovation in applying OSS to age-old SOA problems in IT and achieving massive returns should count as much as cool technology. There is such a thing as "cool and new" business approaches. Choose wisely.

 

I want to thank all of you for your submissions. Again, it was a pleasure. I also want to thank the whole team at JBoss, including our panel of judges, that worked on this and reviewed this. It will all result in a fun event and a cool night in Las Vegas! Sky's the limit! I am looking forward to meeting many of you in person.

 

Congratulations to all the winners, and congratulations to the all the honorary mentions.

 

Remember we love you,

 

marcf

 

 

Despite being a scientist, or more likely because of it, I am actually extremely superstitious. In December 2002, I wrote "Blue," or "Why I love EJBs," followed up by "White", or "Why I love Professional Open Source" in April 2003. However, I never got around to writing the third and final installment in the trilogy: "Red." Partly because I got lazy and partly because I always felt it wasn’t time to write it, the future I wanted to write about was still being defined. Red was intended to be a vision of the IT future, along the lines of Morpheus' quote in the Matrix:

 

"You take the blue pill, and you wake up in your bed and you believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill; you stay in Wonderland and see how deep the rabbit hole goes."

 

Today is the beginning of "Red;" we are going to wonderland and the rabbit hole keeps on going. Just like the Matrix protagonist wakes up to find “the real battle”, JBoss, Inc. today is stepping up to a bigger challenge by merging with RedHat. We chose a future in which I am proud to take part. Today we are announcing the signature of the definitive agreement. JBoss, Inc. will become a division of RedHat. I am staying on, reporting to RedHat’s CEO, Matthew Szulik, with direct responsibility for the JBoss organization.

 

Like all futures, its roots extend directly from the past. In "White," I wrote about how the Internet is the grandfather of free and open source software. The wave of commoditization started to roll towards IT infrastructure and the first impact was the operating system. In "White" and in my blog entry The Elephant and the Tiger, the focus is on market-leaders and master-brands and how hard they are to displace in open source. RedHat is our big brother. We walked in the footsteps of RedHat from a business standpoint, copying their subscription model and the Operations Network approach to scale our business.

 

RedHat emerged as the clear leader of the Linux pack, proving to the marketplace the viability and scalability of the subscription-licensing services format and that yes, you could build a good old-fashioned profitable business out of open source, whodathought?.

 

JBoss, Inc. has number one market share in middleware and we are blowing out our sales and growth forecasts. This is thanks to an amazing team with whom I have the privilege of working: your superior talent and spirit permeate our ranks. I want to thank you all, from the development teams who have transformed this industry through their innovation, to the sales and marketing team who've done an outstanding job educating the IT customer about the superior quality and savings that can be achieved with Professional Open Source products, to the support staff who are on the front lines every day proving to the customer the value of getting someone on the phone who really knows how to address their problems, to every last person whose work at JBoss has made this possible. Thank you not only to those in our company, but to those in the community who have brought us to the forefront of the industry through their support and evangelization.

 

Why take this step you may ask? When evaluating any major decision that impacts JBoss' future, I ask myself the following question: Which option will increase our chances of delivering on our mission to transform the way “we develop, distribute and support software”?

 

JBoss, Inc. had many options. I believe this will provide the best future for our community, our customers, our partners, our employees. Our investors and employees get instant-IPO liquidity, an IPO was possible and indeed planned but in this day and age of “Sarbannes-Oxley” the right M&A provides liquidity and reduces much of the risk. You have all worked hard and long hours and I am happy that this liquidity is coming your way, you all deserve it. Finally I want to thank the JBoss, Inc. team that has made this possible, Joe, Cary and Rob. I particularly want to single out JBoss’ COO, Rob “git’er done” Bearden. Rob, you were truly amazing and I am thankful for what you have done for the company.

 

Our partners will readily see the beneficial implications of this move. How many times I have heard you wish that we remain independent. In this rapidly consolidating and maturing industry, a pole will emerge around the open source pure play we represent. I believe this will strengthen our ecosystem as we merge with the Redhat ecosystem.

 

But I believe it is our customers that will benefit the most from this move. By remaining independent in a company with a shared mission and business model, you know our service to you will continue unchanged. We will accelerate the timeline of products. Consolidating the geographies of open source became a strategic consideration. We need to build the 21st century of open source and we need to build it fast and we need to build it aggressively. Joining ranks with RedHat increases our chances of success. RedHat and JBoss share a joint culture of pure-play open source. While different, our cultures are both centered around the mission of changing the industry through the development, distribution and support of free and open source software. We share a joint mission to put the customer squarely back in the driver's seat, by offering relief from "perpetual" software licensing pain, with the flexibility, choice and peace of mind that comes with highest-quality open source software, backed by highest-quality services.

 

The IT consumer need look no further. As every large player makes its move to create the open source stack of the 21st century, RedHat and JBoss, Inc. are making the first move and throwing their common hats J in the ring. We are THE independent pure-play open source company.

 

Before I close, I want to personally thank the team over at RedHat. I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with you all. Finally, thank you Matthew. In choosing the future of JBoss, Inc., besides the financial aspect, the trust I could establish with the leadership was personally very important to me. I guess I am old fashioned that way ;) Thank you for your mark of trust in us; you have bought yourself an elite corps.

 

JBoss, Inc. today makes me proud, very proud. I won’t lie to you, it is not without emotion that I signed those final papers on Friday night at 11:57PM, being very conscious that we were turning a page in our history. JBoss/RedHat tomorrow will achieve even greater things than we have done separately. The road ahead will bring challenges; the competition will react to this defining move. Make no mistake, we are all signed up for what lies ahead of us and I am personally relishing this adventure that is to come.

 

Onward,

 

marcf

 

PS: the JBoss, Inc. deal team, Cary (left) and Rob (right)

 

Like the protagonist says at the beginning of Trainspotting, you can…

 

Choose a career path, choose a cubicle, choose endless code review meetings, choose an IDE, choose to be good to authority and hope authority will be good to you, choose a thought leader, choose a license, choose an architecture, choose a paradigm, choose a retirement plan, choose a language, choose your SOA, choose sensitivity training, choose Linux vs. Windows, choose a debugger, choose an MBA, choose the system…

 

Or…

 

You can choose not to choose the system. And the reasons? Who needs reasons when you’ve got Open Source?

 

One of the advantages of achieving a little notoriety is that you get to spend time telling young journalists about what a “bad boy” you are. The aftermath: you get to read the ensuing portrait of a money grubber who’s “clawed his way” to the top of the open source pile (of what, kaka?) and who communicates via a “fervent, almost preachy and completely self-serving blog.” The online extra contains such gems as “most hated in open source after Bill Gates,” followed by a fleeting compliment “pioneer in spawning (nice image, even better than a viral. I can just imagine those cute little larval aliens now) viable businesses from free software,” and then, back to the real me “also alleged to be abrasive, paranoid, controlling, and a credit hog".

 

It is enlightening to see that after an hour and a half of interview, all Ms. Lacy’s colleague chose to remember was that I sit in an unkempt office (no way!) put Visine in my red-lined eyes, drink coffee like there’s no tomorrow and spit sunflower seeds in the general direction of my numerous detractors.

 

Media Training 101 includes a warning about articles that prominently feature “insiders” and “people close to the source.” The journalist has a story and whatever you say, they will make it fit. Examples abound, but my favorite has got to be the “Oracle rumor” bit. So, during the interview, I was asked by Sarah “insiders say the deal fell apart because you were going to walk away?” I tell her I am not going anywhere. Me leaving is not an issue. She tells me that it is very clear. The result in print is this wonderful quote where “insiders say the deal fell apart because marc wanted to stay.” On another note, I have always wondered about the “confirmed by multiple sources” line too. In this day and age of the Internet, the “master source” of these multiple confirming voices could be one loud dumbass.

 

Sarah got another bit of important information wrong. It wasn’t just “one” genius I was taking out for their birthday bash but rather 3. Above is a picture inside the “limo” she refers to in the article. You will recognize Gavin in his signature red-velvet party jacket and to the left Ben Sabrin a genius in business in his own right and employee number one (see the podcast interview of Ben on jboss.org) Also. it wasn’t organized by me. As she correctly points out, people do all my work these days and it was actually Ms. Katie Poplin that put the bash together.

 

My investor, David Skok, was really disturbed by the outcome of his interview. He would like it to be known that: “He has always been supportive of me. He wouldn’t have invested otherwise and that he is disappointed to see a total misrepresentation of the conversation that took place between himself and Sarah Lacy.” David don’t worry, I really don’t care. But if you care about your reputation with other entrepreneurs, let me assure you guys that David is an A+ player and has supported us all the way.

 

With my VCs, as with the future of JBoss, there were and are a multitude of choices. I chose David and Matrix Partners because he understood open source, respected our model and frankly was the most qualified all-around due to past Silverstream experience. I felt that they would be the most able to bring value in growing the company. This has absolutely been the case and JBoss and I have benefited from their experience. Next time, David, be wary of soft-spoken Southern belles asking questions. They have an agenda. Believe me. I know, I married one.

 

Don’t get me wrong I am actually EXTREMELLY GRATEFUL for the article, Sarah, I mean it is not every day that ANYONE gets a full-featured article in BW. This is more publicity than I could ever hope for and I did get a chuckle out of reading it, so thanks.

 

marcf

I am going to do just a few quickies on the biotech front. Few smoking guns on the lateral (aspect-like) distribution of genetic information outside of the normal mendelian inheritance.

 

In this month’s “Scientific American”. Pick up the “an antibiotic resistence fighter” from Gary Stix, it is a great article. It covers recent development of antibiotic drugs that basically shut down the path way for a virus to start a response to DNA replication blockers. In there I was interested in the following quote.

We are always looking for novel approaches, especially those that counteract resistance. This finding suggests one, but it is focused on a limited genetic mechanism of drug resistance- that is, chromosomal mutation (ed: inherintance in sofware). Other types of resistence can crop up to directly attack the antibiotic. They can be acquired by transferring resistance genes from one species of bacterium to another and also within the same species.

 

In other words, the bacterium survive by exchanging “patches” (resistance genes) outside of the mendelian inheritance, but rather dynamically by weaving in the code. Very AO’ish if you ask me, I find this to be a smoking gun of evidence and will dig into the papers on bacterium resistence that prove this dynamic weaving. Specifically I will be looking for the transport mechanisms by which this is done. I will be looking for the jar mechanisms that Nature employs.

 

In the February 16 issue of Nature, there is a featured article called “Marine microbes pool their DNA”. Basically a very useful protein called “Proteorhodopsin” does photosynthesis (nice, I want some!) and provide the organisms that adopt it a competitive edge.

In fact proteorhodopsin seems to be more of a reflection of this unique environment than of the the organisms in which it is found. DNA screening in waters collected off Hawaii suggest that the proteorhodopsin gene is shared by members of the archaea and Bacteria, two disparate microbial domains of life that co-exist in the photic zone via lateral gene transfer
Bingo! Bingo! Bingo! I find this to be proof of the AO hypothesis in evolution. They talk about “cross cutting concerns”, in this case, the capacity to photosynthesize light is a cross cutting concern across domains of life. That capacity is a function of the environment (light!). It is as if a zone comes with its own genetic apparatus, the equivalent of its own software infrastructure. It is offered to newcomers by advertising: “Use the light! It will become your own portable source of free energy”. I wish I had some, it would keep me from eating (heating? :). The species that weave this in are doped. I suspect that the mechanism is VIRUSES. I am so convinced that viruses are actually a key factor in evolution.

 

Thinking of it, I talk about it as it was a conscious decision, a “design choice” but it really isn’t. It just happens that the microbes that randomly have this sequence, have an evolutionary edge in the form of an additional source of free energy.

 

The individuals within the specie that are thus doped will self-select in the dynamics of growth and then competition for limited resources. I would be interested in knowing exactly by what mechanisms is the gene transferred or maybe “held” in the soup for the microbes to adopt. Could there be free floating gene sequences in mini forms?

 

Remembering the paper on “non-medelian inheritance in Arabidopsis” it is already hypothesized that free floating RNA would be the cache of genes that are used to patch damaged DNA. There is a genetic pathway that responds to a metabolic stress signals and results in a particular “emergency” genetic expression. Remember the paper on how to fight evolving viruses? You hyper accelerate the mutation rate of a virus with the help of ribavirin, and basically the message will be garbled by just time passing because you overwhelm the defense response capability of the repair mechanisms.

 

There is also a great paper, in I can’t remember what, on the fact that space travel is limited by the inability of our genetic machinery to sustain intense radiation levels, which randomly knock out bits in our DNA and thus mutate everything at a very high rate. One nice solution is you travel with your own ball of water around you but it overruns today economic capabilities of space rockets and the payload they can actually cary. I say you send a MOUSE in space and let the mouse figure it out? I say send a MILLION mice up there and see if one survives, they will have evolved the magic genes for high genetic repair mechanisms. THEN you splice THAT gene out and voila! just send THIS monkey in space.

 

I personally want to believe that the cache is more simply effectively "persisted" by microbal populations using viral messages. In this scenario, there IS NO such repository outside the specie but rather the spiece keeps its own cache which it at all times and them homogenizes through its genome population by the combination of viral propagation and retro-weaving. OR not :) This is the hypothesis I really want to believe in though.

 

Remember she loves you,

 

marcf

marc fleury

Skiing with Scott

Posted by marc fleury Mar 26, 2006

 

I just come back from a skiing trip out with co-founder of JBoss, Inc. Scott Stark. Scott decided to move to the mountains about 3 years ago and has been living there ever since. He works his ass off as most of the company knows, but Scott also skiis every day if he wants to and there is "powdah". See, Scott LOVES to ski and he is also very good at it. I love skiing too but I am a bit worse at it. When I asked Scott if I really needed a “work” excuse to do this, he mentioned that “skiing” was excuse enough for us to get together in the name of the company.

 

The mountains where he lives (Summit, WA) are good fun. There are basically many small mountain peaks each with devilish runs. It was good fun to ski them with Scott as he basically knows them by heart. Other bonus is the lines were small or empty. He took me the first day to this run called “international” which basically looks like a toilet bowl full of moguls. It was frankly scary to me, specifically that cliff start that Scott wanted me to do without thinking. I managed to go down without really thinking about it and Scott did this double diamond without even breaking style. Wow, I was impressed. He uses this new technique of “phantom moves” on parabolics and he masters the move. He was fun to watch.

 

So I decided to buy myself good skis (already splurged on boots earlier this year). BTW, if some of you care about equipment, first thing Scott taught me is that now is the time to shop and buy the end of season stuff as you probably already know. Store wide was 50% off where Scott took me. Second I want to mention that my foam injection boots are the SHIZZLE. I wouldn't take them off after the runs, they were so comfortable.

 

Anyway, it was good fun skiing with Scott for 3 days. I am sad that at least *my* season is over.

 

Peace love and good snow,

 

marcf

 

BEA and IBM are doing a good marketing job of spinning their "strategy". BEA calls it a "Blended" strategy....IBM calls it Bluewashing.

 

Marketing spin aside, the strategy is "OSS Strip Mining" which is taking open source software built by a community and "Bluewashing" or "Blending" within proprietary, closed source offerings; forking/changing the open source code as needed in the process. The community does not benefit from this, but IBM and BEA shareholders absolutely benefit.

 

A perfect example is IBM WebSphere Community Edition. It is based on the Apache Geronimo open source project and is "Bluewashed" whereby Geronimo is strip-mined for whatever is useful, then combined with other ingredients, etc. While the resulting product is sometimes free, it is no longer "open source" by any stretch of the imagination. This again is why competing commercial vendors prefer BSD-style licensing. It enables this “stealing” from the community, or in marketing-speak “leveraging”. At JBoss, we prefer FSF licenses, such as LGPL, that prevent the strip-mining while at the same time allowing end users and ISVs to reuse our code. Our users deserve the stability and comfort of knowing that the distribution of JBoss they are using is the same one that everyone else is running.

 

Another commercial software "strategy" is proprietary software "Waste Dumping". Think BEA with Beehive. This is the opposite of strip-mining in that it entails the commercial vendors "donating" some technology to open source. Eager to be part of the open source wave, the vendor identifies some technology that is inferior or of limited value to them, and they dump (oops...sorry...they "donate") it into open source. BEA is probably the worst offender here. There has been so much Waste Dumping going on lately that we may very well need an "Open Source landfill" to deal with the cleanup of all of this waste and its damage to our environment. I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen, but we like our communities clean and not taken for fools.

 

JBoss has always been about pure open source. We started in OSS and we will die in OSS. It rubs me the wrong way when our competitors mischaracterize us, the real developers of FOSS, for not being OSS-enough according to their view of the world. The fact that our LGPL license prevents them from strip-mining us is the real problem. Professional OSS paired with subscription services is what customers want... Not bait and switch, not “Geronimo is for the third world” as I recently heard an IBM exec say at the MIT conference.

 

JBoss is based on the assumption that everyone deserves “world-class” software, fully-loaded with ALL the features. Professional OSS is our livelihood and is a proven model that is driven by customer value. It also drives shareholder value IF you construct your business model properly. Shifting from a software license revenue model to a subscription revenue model is PAINFUL for big vendors like BEA and IBM who need to protect their sacred cows so Wall Street doesn't devalue them.

 

Don’t believe the hype and the FUD. Pure open source has no gimmicks, and the users and customers will settle the score. At JBoss, what you see is what you get and what we support.

 

Peace, Love and Pure Open Source.

 

marcf

marc fleury

Viruses and Evolution

Posted by marc fleury Feb 2, 2006

 

I already blogged about this topic once and promised to be on the prowl for good articles relating to one of my favorite hypotheses. That AO like mechanisms play a role in nature's evolution. Let me replicate here some of the abstract of "Quasi-species diversity determines pathognenesis through cooperative interactions in a viral population". (Vignuzzi, Stone, Arnold, Cameron, Andino; Nature Vol 439, 19 Jan 2006 page 344-347).

An RNA virus population does not consist of a single genotype; rather, it is an ensemble of related sequences, termed quasi-species. Quasispecies arise from rapid genomic evolution powered by the high mutation rate of RNA viral replication. Although a high mutation rate is dangerous for a virus because it results in nonviable individuals, it has been hypothesized that high mutation rates create a cloud of potentially beneficial mutation at the population level, which afford the viral quasispecies a greater probability to evolve and adapt to new environments and challenges during infection. Mathematical models predict that viral quasispecies are not simply a collection of diverse mutants but a group of interactive variants which together contribute to the characteristics of the populations. According to this view, viral populations, rather than individual variants, are the target of evolutionary selection

 

Basically the article is then an observation of this phenomena and therefore factual proof that quasipopulations are the way of evolution. I will try to translate some of this and draw links to software.

 

What really frustrates me about biology is that the lingo they use is even more obscure than the stuff we use in software. I mean we knock ourselves out with acronyms and create a language barrier to entry. People think we are talking in tongues when really it is not that complex. Not that the concepts are trivial but our communication is more complex than it needs to be. This is particularly true of the bio field. I find myself ignoring all the fancy greek names these guys throw around (too many to remember anyway) and I just try to map the concepts to visual things. BTW if you want something even simpler than a "dummies book" I recommend "A cartoon guide to genetics" which explains IN DRAWING AND FUNNY PLAIN ENGLISH what genetics is all about. It is a GREAT book that is very clear, provides a "rosetta stone" of the lingo they use to visuals and english, and frankly covers a lot of ground, I just enjoyed that book.

 

So the first point I want to focus on is the rate of RNA change. See DNA is a very stable structure. Not only chemically is it stable (dual chain stabilizes) but also there are many mechanisms encoded in it for its stability. Replication of it comes with a lot of error correction. See my previous blog entry on "non-mendelian inheritance in arabidopsis" where basically a "versioning system" (think CVS) has been demonstrated in plants DNA. Metabolic stress due to a wrong mutation in DNA with trigger a reversal of version. DNA is the long term storage of information and there are a lot of error correction algorythms built around it. DNA doesn't change fast, which is good for evolution and it is believed that complex lifeforms evolved only when DNA appeared as a long term storage device. For more on this pick up last week's NATURE where some french guy is at the forefront of a theory that RNA actually preceeded DNA in life.

 

see the point is that RNA actually has a HIGH RATE OF MUTATION. While evolution is something that seems to be encoded in DNA over millions of years. RNA changes on the scale of minutes. There are random mutations (ERRORS IN TRANSCRIPTION) that occur continuously as RNA replicates. The article referenced here talks about 2 point mutations per genome containing 50,000 bases as it replicates in a couple of hours. Multiply that be the billions of RNA strands that are replicating in your own body at this very minute and you get an idea of the bazaar that is going on. Viruses are transport mechanism (jar files in software) that get to cells and use the machinery to replicate. Retro-viruses in fact weave themselves in the host DNA (aspect weaving is the parallel).

 

So onto evolution. If the rate of mutation of RNA is too low, the virus dies. Why? It cannot invade new hosts. Viruses are for the most part benign and believed to have played a big role in evolution so forget for a second the pathologies. Pathologies (the rat dies) are a proof positive of the exponential development (succesful, if out of control replication) of the virus. Viruses treated for low rates of transformation do not create enough diversity (the quasi population they talk about) to actually survive. Don't change and you die.

 

On the other hand the same virus exposed to Ribavirin, a mutagen (generator of mutations) will kill the virus as well. Why? It changes too fast so there is really no continuity in the virus code. Change too fast and there is no lineage. This is called the "error threshold" of viral mutation that will actually kill a viral entity. Ribavirin is a drug used in medicine today.

 

bottom line? There is actually a band of RATE OF MUTATION that is selected by nature, blindly. The article claims there are mathematical models of this dynamic and I intend to check them out since it can't be more complex than exponential growth (rate of death, rate of replication). Replicate with too much fidelity and you die, replicate with not enough fidelity and you die, there is a fine tuned rate at which you are supposed to change and by definition of "selection" that rate is where we are at (otherwise we wouldn't be here, get it? :).

 

I am convinced RNA is natures advices and quasipopulations are natures aspects (collections of advices), retro-viruses are natures weaving mechanism. My question is whether there is a language. There is a debate right now about Intelligent Design and whether all this machinery we are discovering in biology is the product of an intelligent engineering or whether it is the product of chance. Unfortunately ID is pushed by religious factions for evangelical purposes and I don't believe the two should mix. The other unfortunate side of the coin is that most scientists have emotional responses and reject the ID hypothesis only on the basis that in fact it is mostly a religiously motivated hypothesis based on faith alone.

 

Here is what puzzling me. We humans are ALREADY doing ID. We are interacting with Genomes and splicing tomatoes and fruit genomes for our own purposes. In other words ID is a reality for humans. Imagine (for a second) that another race picks up some DNA we engineered in a couple million years, there will be ID (ours) in those DNA structures and they will fiercely debate the issue as well. Unfortunately this is a debate that overlaps with religious faith, which should be separated from scientific credos and inquiry, and in my mind the two approaches should not be mixed but are not incompatible if separated.

 

The counterpoint to ID is that the rate of mutations may be fast enough to explain the high degree of evolution and adaptability in nature. I always though that if DNA doesn't move fast enough then there is only a small chance that the combinatorials would result in such intricate designs. However RNA mutation rate is on another scale (order of 6 magnitude faster?) and its distribution mechanisms, through viruses, and weaving mechanisms, through retroviruses, could explain creation of our reality. Even if not, it is entirely possible that "we just got lucky" and our evolutionary path "found" DNA, just cause "we got lucky". In other words I do not think that even in the case the mathematical models show statistics that couldn't be computed (MIPS style) by nature in time to evolve to our structure, that we need to default to aliens or God rather than "blind luck".

 

anyway, all of this is about proving that AO has played a role in evolution, if after all with "intelligent design in software" (are we that intelligent in software? Hmmmm I wonder ;) we found that the best way to maintain software infrastructure was to adopt AO methodologies then it is entirely believable to me, that AO was "found" or "designed" into natures code mechanisms. For example on the basis of the viral research going on, people are investigating virus as distribution mechanisms for anti-dotes to chemical warfare. Just like we would use AO to patch JDBC drivers under DDOS attacks, we could use viruses to distribute the RNA that encodes a particular suppresor of a viral agent. Trivial. There is enough bits out there with the viruses, the RNA, the retro-weaving, the fast rate of change, to support this hypothesis. I will try and dig a bit in the mathematical models of growth see if there is any statical picture we can derive there.

 

It strikes me, as a final point, that nature's evolution, will recreate a lot of the same mathematics we know from quantum theory where quantum electrodynamics for example takes into account ALL THE POSSIBLE WORLD in its dynamic equations. The math got hairy there. Another field where this appears is in finance, where monte-carlo simulations, which amount to calculating the net present value of a tree of decisions by taking into account all variants and assigning probabilities and profit to them lets you make decision on the viability of projects (a standard procedure in basic corporate finance decision making) proves once again that "real" is in fact a product of "possibles". Nature's mathematics of viral evolution will probably result in the same type of statistical calculations where the equivalent of a project being done is "entity is alive" as opposed to dead.

 

Remember blind luck loves you too :)

 

marcf

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Here is the latest entry in the JBoss diaries. First time I met Sacha Labourey, he was this eager student on the second row in my first EU training. I remember him so intensely focused on the 5th and last day of training when everyone else was already KO'ed. That was in sept 2001 in London, 5 years ago.

 

Today, Sacha in many ways embodies the prototypical JBossian. He can code and can think in business terms as well. Sacha's influence on our company and strategy runs deep. Before he was 30, he wrote the clustering in JBoss, sits on JBoss' inc board of directors, won multi million dollar deals, ran the EMEA organization, did M&A and today is rejoining the development organization acting as its CTO. Not only is he someone whose superior talents are undeniable, he is also a VERY funny guy :). Enjoy.

 

This interview with Ben is the latest installment in the “JBoss Diaries” filmed at JBossWorld in March 2005. Each installment in the series provides an introduction to the personalities that make up JBoss and insight into our gradual evolution from a loosely organized group of developers collaborating over the Internet, to a cohesive company with a mission to dominate middleware and bring Professional Open Source to the mainstream. That was a mouthful but it reflects the honest truth of our naked ambition :) Filmed by Ben Fee, whose prior work includes several snowboarding titles as well as a stint as personal videographer to Hunter S. Thompson, this is not your grandfather’s corporate retrospective.

 

JBoss would not be anywhere near where it is today without the contributions of some pretty amazing and unique people. Ben is the archetype of the smart guy that helped us get where we are today. Without an early injection of talent we likely never would have made the transition to a corporate entity. Before we were anywhere near formal enough to have a title like “VP Sales Americas,” Ben's current title, it was my wife, my dog and myself and would-be customers had to really try to get any of us on the phone. That all began to change when Ben hired himself in the summer of 2003. This is a great interview where Ben talks about the past and I can't help it but laugh at some of the old stories he tells there. Ben is one of those amazingly talented people with a passion for their work that just shows through.

 

Ben only alludes to the following story, that he hired himself in the company, I only took the meeting with him in the first place so that he would stop bothering me and just to see what the guy was made of. By end of the lunch meeting Ben was EMPLOYEE NUMBER ONE of JBoss inc. I don't really know, to this day, how he managed to pull that trick on me, maybe he used the Jedi mind trick? "You really need meeeee". It worked, we needed Ben badly.

 

marcf

 

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Part IV of IV: The Battle of the Business Models

 

Put all of the announcements covered in my first three entries together and you start getting the picture. The current tectonic shift in the market is about business models and the disruptive impact of OSS. On one hand, you have Open Source and Open Standards and on the other you have Closed Source and Closed Standards. But, more importantly, not everyone can play on both sides. The companies that are trying to fight the OSS game, like IBM, are "traditional" software companies with "traditional" software cost structures. They have traditionally high cost of sales, higher cost of development, and high cost of marketing.

 

When corporate JBoss was two people and a dog, we had reached our first million downloads. It was also already a formidable community, vast, diverse, largely anonymous, but pervasive. Today we are 150 people at JBoss, Inc. and JBoss Application Server (AS) has become entrenched at 40% market share, with BEA and IBM each at 20%. With JBoss Enterprise Middleware Suite (JEMS), which includes JBoss AS, Apache Tomcat, Hibernate, JBoss Portal, JBoss jBPM, JBoss Cache, JBoss Eclipse IDE, with JBoss Rules and JBoss Transactions coming online in Q1 2006, we are accelerating the pace of innovation and the penetration. We are not just winning customers; some would say we are gobbling them up.

 

How is this possible? While our competition is forced, by their very nature, to fight a war of attrition, we engage in maneuver warfare. Think Vietnam. When Ho Chi Minh recruited General Vo Nguyen Giap to lead the Vietnamese forces against the French and, later, the Americans, he told the story of "The Elephant and The Tiger." The metaphor describes how smaller military forces can defeat larger ones, if the proper strategy is employed. If the tiger ever stands still, the elephant will crush him with his mighty tusks. But, the tiger will not stand still. The tiger will leap on the back of the elephant, tearing huge chunks from the elephant’s side, and then leap back into the dark jungle, as the elephant slowly bleeds to death. The days when my competitors can “JBoss doesn’t have this” or “JBoss doesn’t have that” are numbered: JBoss Rules and JBoss Transactions are the latest chunks we are ripping out of those arguments.

 

How can a small structure of scrappy geeks challenge elephants like IBM? I believe it is because we were born on the Internet, as a community and as a company. Our cost structure, our organization, our business model is build around the identity of a software vendor that leverages the impact of the Internet. We use it for development using the traditional models of OSS development; we use it to achiever lower costs of sales and marketing; we use it for distribution, reaching mass market at very low cost; we use it for support, offering free forums and for-pay programs to support hundreds of thousands of developers around the world. Welcome to the OSS jungle. We can survive, nay thrive on lower revenues, and that is a crazy new world for our competition.

 

Our organization reflects our roots. Can any company make the transition to such a business model? Well, not really. The elephants would have to shrink significantly, since our revenues are lower, to be able to mimic our cost structures and compete on a equal footing on the value we deliver. The bottom line is that the Internet has spawned companies like ours and MySQL that deliver value comparable to the traditional players at a much much lower cost. This fight is not even fair.

 

The move to subscriptions is scary in an on itself. Subscripations are great revenues that are renewable and predictable. It is not inherent to open source. CA, Salesforce, JBoss, Red Hat are all in this mode of sale today. Can companies move to a subscription based business model overnight like SUNW just did?.

 

If Sun could do such a bold announcement the other day, it is because they DON"T REALLY MAKE MONEY AT SOFTWARE. The softare revenue represented around 1% of their revenue (120M on 12BN sales). So from a Wall Street standpoint it was a wash, it was irrelevant for the money guys--which is why SUNW's announcement generally drew yawns. In fact, Sun was pitching that they intend to increase their revenues BECAUSE of that shift. That is a luxury that Sun has because, ironically, they sucked pretty bad at selling proprietary software.

 

However, this is not the case of our proprietary competition: BEA and IBM. IBM has $2Bn running on WebSphere and BEA SOLELY depends on its Tuxedo/WebLogic line. For them to transition to subscription and OSS is a systemic shock that might literally kill them. It took CA I don't know how many years to make a smooth transition to a pure subscription business model and they did so by gorging on acquisitions of installed bases in order to increase their base of renewable business. I believe BEA may follow the same tactic of subscription sans OSS, which is possible a la CA. Increase their base to 80% maintenance renewability, "restructure" the last 20% of your work force and, voila, you have achieved the transition.

 

There are reasons for why the transition is scary. First, a simple accounting rule. If you sell $1M of licenses you usually get to recognize EVERYTHING UPFRONT as revenue. In other words you show $1M revenue in the first quarter you sell. IF you move to subscription you recognize 1/4 every quarter. In other words, you show Wall Street a drastic drop to $250M revenue instead the usual $1M when you do the transition? From an earnings standpoint you drop 75% on that cusp. Obviously it all washes out in the long term, but the cusp is the scary moment for Wall Street, with its short-term focus. Again this was irrelevant for SUNW since licenses represented less then 1% of their revenue. Novell, as another example, did the transition easily to Suse. They claim since they were not selling any licenses anymore, so it was all maintenance anyway.

 

Add to that the fact that you got to cut your prices in OSS in order to compete with the likes of RHAT, JBoss and MySQL and you get a double whammy effect. Lower revenues right there. And trust me these guys just don't have the corporate culture or structure to handle such shocks: THEY WERE ORGANIZATIONS DESIGNED IN ANOTHER ERA, IN ANOTHER TIME, WITH DIFFERENT BUSINESS ASSUMPTIONS AND DRASTICALLY HIGHER SUPPORT STRUCTURES.

 

Very specifically, whereas JBoss spends the traditional software P&L on sales and marketing, the orders of magnitude efficiency brought to both structures by the Internet, reduce our sales and marketing costs 10x compared to our proprietary competition. Bottom line we can support SM without a for-pay license, as simple and scary as that (and by DEFINITION of our model BTW). I hope the math is trivially clear. What scares our proprietary competition is not so much the end game of OSS and subscription as Schwartz called out the other day, but RATHER THE SPEED AT WHICH THEY MUST ADAPT THEIR ORGANIZATIONS TO THIS NEW BUSINESS MODEL AND THE FACT THAT THEY ULTIMATELY HAVE TO SHRINK. If they miss the transition, again it could a shock to their systems. This, by the way, is why you should never believe the intentions of IBM and BEA when it comes to OSS middleware and database. It is all about making sure the transition happens on their timeline, that things get commoditized as slowly as possible, so they can internally manage their organizations. I mean... Websphere has 10,000 developers (!!). We on ALL of JEMS have 50. People used to throw this fact at our faces as the proof we would never succeed. It is actually their Achilles heel, now that we are fighting a jungle war on our turf.

 

Why cannot the elephant fight like the tiger? Assume IBM or BEA resolved the internal political battles over open-sourcing their proprietary technology. Make the even less likely assumption that they could make ditching hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue for a smaller eventual outcome palatable to Wall Street and their shareholders who sweat them quarter by quarter. Then the technical and legal reality is that most of the larger proprietary implementations, especially in spaces like middleware, are neither legally nor practically consumable in open source. So they have to start over, and fight in a new space against an entrenched competitor that is faster and more agile than they are.

 

I think those cost structures and the inertia built in them (you can't restructure that fast) are the biggest weaknesses of the elephants as we fight turf wars of accelerating timelines of OSS'ing. Between Sun and JBoss we have OSS'ed overnight TWO key components of the high-end technology the elephant is feeding on now, and which they were counting on until the year 2030. Integration and distributed transactions are now out in the open. That timeline acceleration is what scares them to death. How fast we commoditize dictates how fast they must react and adapt their structures to the new realities of the new market. No one, not even us, would have predicted a year ago that in December 2005, both integration and distributed transaction management would be commoditized. In, the space of week, Sun and JBoss just created a nightmare for the elephant.

 

By publicizing a pro-open source stance when what they wanted was to push Linux, IBM grabbed the tiger by the tail. Open Source has been unleashed, thanks in part to their efforts promoting Linux. Meanwhile, they never intended for their own business to come under pressure. They only meant to hurt MSFT, not themselves...Now, at a time when Sun and JBoss are going all open, BEA and IBM are going closed. They are retreating into their shell to closed source and closed standards. SCA reflects the bare mathematics of their financial structures. They can't afford to commoditize SOA, not that fast. Integration and transactions overnight, they just can't. So, instead, they create an exclusive club around a closed standard and pay lip-service to open source. All the while, they make sure the implementation will remain low-end while they continue milking the high-end. It is a desperate attempt to get control of the timeline and protect the high end. IBM’s attempted play with Geronimo is transparent to the market, why adopt backwards technology that lacks all the goodness, when the stack has already been open sourced? They will do everything they can to slow down the commoditization curve; meanwhile, we will continue accelerating it. The new reality of the market is that CUSTOMERS adopt the timeline as fast as they can. Customer demand will settle the score.

 

In the meantime, Professional Open Source companies must act like the tiger in order to survive—attentive, observing, fast, stealthy, able to exploit the element of surprise, striking everywhere, able to retreat into nowhere, agile, adaptive, capable of swiftly reacting and re-calculating their moves. The traditional IT superpowers lumber into the OS jungle, where we were born and where we live and breathe and think they can take over our territory because they have more employees, more revenues, bigger balance sheets and a bigger name. While they get mired down in fighting internal political battles and tough external selling jobs to Wall Street, the real OS players will continue to innovate. The entrenched OS player has to fail massively in its delivery on quality of product and quality of support to lose its first-mover, market-leader advantage. In the jungle, speed and agility and knowing your territory win over size. OS does not stand still.

 

The first time we encountered this “Anything an OS player can do, a proprietary vendor can copy and do better” scenario was when HP started giving away Bluestone for free. It was a defining moment for us. We wondered if traditional logic would hold and the larger brand and the larger balance sheet would win over the established OS player, once cost no longer became an issue. Very simply we wondered if we would die. What irony that Bob Bickel, the brain behind that move at HP, is now our very own business dev head and has been instrumental in growing JBoss and HP is one of our partners today.

 

Open Source is soo hot right now. When I first started out, it was so not (JBoss started to mature as a product right when the tech bubble burst, and the disappointed expectations of the Linux Wave left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth). Everybody told me JBoss will never succeed: you guys are nobodies and you compete with every big player in this industry. Now the big players in the industry are falling over themselves to move into OSS or control it. The problem is that open source is about a lot more than marketing window dressing. Without street cred in OS development in your chosen space, without continued innovation on the product front and without highest-quality support from the core developers of that software, all you got is smoke and that ain’t gonna help you when the tiger leaps out of the underbrush.

 

I hope I have helped you grok some of the dynamics in our market. This is how I make sense of the recent moves in our industry. It is about a business model battle and it is reminiscent of the elephant and the tiger. Traditional IT superpowers, is open source your Vietnam? Time will tell.

 

Remember we love you,

 

marcf,

PS: On Sunday as I was working on some of these blogs, my six-year old daughter came to me and said "Daddy, why are you working on a Sunday, is IBM still after you? (sic)." I laughed and said "Yes darling, IBM is still after me but now a whole industry is ganging up on us." She asked why. I thought about it a bit, how can you explain all of this to a 6 years old and answered "Because we might be small but we are mighty." She said "like mighty mouse!" She laughed at the image, herself and then, thirty minutes later, she came back with a rhyme and said "Here Daddy, include this in your blog and tell them it comes from me."

 

"Mighty mouse, mighty mouse
Is coming to your house
Be careful, he will trick you!"

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