Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Open Source Software Businesses

Following on from my last post, that was motivated by this discussion on TSS. In answer to the question. What motivates Gavin King when he is selling Seam? Well after some mis-communication, Bill Burke of JBoss was very honest about this. Jboss is a Software Business, they make their money mostly through support subscriptions. So JBoss sell support licenses for a Software Product, The JBoss Application Server. This is the business that Red Hat bought.

So is there anything wrong with this? Well no if you're open and transparent about it. I definitely do not work for free, and as Bill rightly points out, much of what JBoss as achieved in the open source arena would not have been possible if they hadn't grown the business. Also, one size doesn't fit all, so although J2EE5 isn't the simplest way to build a web application, as some of the comments to my last post rightly point out, in some cases J2EE5 is a good option.

So where does that leave us? Well I still feel that describing JBoss as "community driven" like they do on their website isn't completely "accurate" :^). JBoss like any other business will do what it sees to be in it's own interest. So putting back on my cynical hat. Gavin Kings motivation when selling Seam? Create an opportunity to sell more JBoss Subscriptions perhaps?

Again, fine - but does this qualify him as a "community leader"? In my opinion no.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The J2EE King is Dead - Long live the J2EE King!

I've quit posting on Objects. Gilad Bracha is much better qualified then I and besides he has a cool blog. Gilad reckons that Java is not OO. Well that's something coming from the guy who led development on the Java VM for a number of years.

As for me, I've decided to take Gilads advice and ensure that my next project is not a Java one. I'm seriously getting into Ruby and Rails, and I'm also dabbling with Flex. I'm finding the Ruby forums kind of boring though, basically filled of helpful knowledgeable people, supplying useful technical tit-bits, without an axe to grind insight.

In contrast the Java forums like TSS are a lot more "fun". I've noticed a trend lately, the OSS projects that exposed the swindle known as the J2EE Application Server are now seizing the J2EE crown for themselves. Spring, which is a neat framework, that basically helps to overcome a Java language smell (Gilad discusses this too), now sees itself as the new J2EE King. I have read several articles from Rod Johnson, and whilst he is very eloquent in describing the pitfalls in J2EE and in particular EJB, at no point does he mention that IoC is merely a pattern to deal wit the fact that object construction cannot be done in an OO fashion with Java. Now is this just an oversight on his part, or is he just simply ignorant of this fact?

Also, Johnson seems to have got himself into a squabble with the JBoss/Hibernate guys. The JBoss camp has an alternative vision for the new J2EE, and they see themselves as the true successors to the J2EE throne. Again, at the core is a framework to deal with the limits of the Java language. Hibernate with the use of CGLIB manages to overcome the static nature of Java, by late-binding POJOs to a database agnostic persistence mechanism at runtime. Has it escaped Gavin Kings notice that Rails manages to do the same thing, within the Ruby language and without having to resort to ugly tricks?

You would have guessed that both of these clever guys would have realised that the problem is with the language, and that they would be spending their time building OO frameworks using a more appropriate, 'OO' programming language, but they aren't, so why?

Well the simple answer is money. Java is an established market, and they both intend to exploit it. Unlike the old guard, which they have successfully over thrown, these new upstarts have an open source business model. I'm not an expert on OSS, but apparently you can make money out of software by giving it away. The thing about these new pretenders however is that in my opinion, they are both fundamentally dishonest. I don’t believe either of them is being totally open about their true motives. When an Oracle salesman walks up to you in a pin-stripped suite and offers to sell you a product, you know what you’re potentially getting into, but when Gavin King offers you Seam as the solution to all your problems what are his motives? Is he truly altruistic ?

Marc McFluery of JBoss fame is a very rich guy. So how did he make his money? The JBoss camp has chosen to stick close to the JCP and build on Java "standards". Their latest offering in this vain is Seam 2.0, which builds on JSF1.? and EJB3.0. As I understand it JBoss with Seam is fully J2EE 5 compliant. So I guess this is what Red Hat thought they bought. McFluery must of laughed all the way to the bank!

So back to Gavin and his Seam2.0. Without going into details, Seam tries to do with J2EE5 what Rails does with Ruby. Now I guess you're saying that a full blown J2EE5 App Server is not needed to do what Rails does, even with a limited language like Java - yes, true, but... JBoss is J2EE5 standards complaint so they must use all the J2EE5 standards :^).

From all accounts Seam at its core is an elegant framework, the problem is though is that it solves the wrong problem. The problem it should be solving is how do I build web applications with Java quickly? (to which the obvious answer is, you don't :^)). Instead the problem it chooses to solve is how do I build web applications using J2EE5, including EJB3.0, JSF and a full blown App Server? If you sell Application Servers, or product consulting for Application Servers like JBoss does, then perhaps this latter problem does need a solution. So back to the question, what are Gavin Kings motives when he is selling Seam? Well if you are as cynical as me, you would say that it is to push JBoss as an Application Server and to sell more product consulting.

These political and business issues have dogged the IT industry for a very long time, yet they are never adequately debated amongst the developer community in my view. My concern is that there will be a lot of young naive developers out there that believe that they can trust the likes of Rod Johnson and Gavin King as honest “community” leaders, and will actually invest hours learning either Spring or Seam, only to find out that it all was one big con and that their time would have been much better spent learning Ruby.

Anyway, like I say I intend to be doing less Java in the future. Personally, I prefer not to identify with a specific programming language and I like to see myself as just a Programmer first and foremost; that way I’m free to choose any programming language that suites me. My advice to the Java community though, if they are listening, is to watch out for the new pretenders. They could turn out to be worst then the ‘leaders’ we have now.