JBoss Group LLC will release the developer version of an upgrade to its open-source Java application server this week, employing a programming model that it says should make life easier for developers creating Web applications for large enterprises.
Called aspect-oriented programming (AOP), the model was developed about a decade ago at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), said Marc Fleury, founder and chief executive officer of JBoss Group. Its use in JBoss 4.0 should make it easier for developers to build applications that include functions important for enterprises such as object persistence, caching and replication, he said.
JBoss competes with commercial application servers from BEA Systems Inc., IBM Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and others. JBoss Group makes money selling services and documentation around the open-source product. Its product has proved a popular development platform and the company hopes to expand its use in production environments at large businesses.
BEA, IBM and other commercial vendors have been developing tools that try to simplify applications development using J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition). JBoss Group claims to be the only vendor following the AOP route, which Fleury described as "on a par with object-oriented programming." He also likened it to the programming model used in Microsoft Corp.'s development tools.
"What it allows us to do in the Java camp is to do a lot of what (Microsoft's) .Net Framework offers -- ease of use and ease of programming," he said.
Supporting AOP in JBoss will allow developers to write simple Java objects and then apply more sophisticated enterprise functions later in the development process, turning those programs into J2EE applications, Fleury said.
JBoss Group sees interest in its product picking up among government users, particularly in Europe but also in the U.S. It also claims to have attracted a few large corporate customers including Corporate Express Inc., Fleury said, which provides office and computer supplies to business and had 2001 revenue of US$5 billion in North America.
The JBoss application server hasn't yet been certified as J2EE-compliant, however, meaning it hasn't passed Sun's Java compatibility tests for ensuring interoperability among Java applications. The companies have waged a public battle over the issue, with JBoss accusing Sun of "stonewalling" its attempts to become certified. It said its product "supports the J2EE 1.3 specification" even though it has not been certified by Sun.
"We don't have that (Java) brand because it’s a brand owned by Sun and we haven't successfully negotiated getting it," Fleury said.
Sun maintains it has given JBoss the opportunity to take its tests and to certify its product as J2EE-compliant. In March it extended an offer to JBoss to license the test suite, said Rick Saletta, Sun group marketing manager for softare sales and licensing.
"If they wanted to be compatible they could be. Even small companies that make less money than JBoss Group were able to get products compatible. We would love to do that with JBoss Group but they have abused the media by saying we won't let them be compatible," he said.
Fleury said JBoss wants to negotiate terms of the offer, including the price, and said he's had no luck trying to meet with senior Sun officials to discuss it.
The developer edition of JBoss 4.0 will be available as a free download next from the JBoss Group Web site and from SourceForge.net., JBoss said. The final version for deploying applications in production will be available in the fourth quarter, Fleury said.