JBoss developers meet in the shadow of JavaOne

Developers of the open source JBoss application server held their own conference this Wednesday, literally in the shadow of Sun Microsystems' JavaOne event in San Francisco.

They held the one-day event at the Sony Metreon Action Theater, just a few hundred yards from JavaOne's venue at the Moscone Center.

Throughout the day, about 200 Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) developers, most wearing JavaOne ID tags, filed in and out of the Metreon catching conference discussions on JBoss in the theatre and gossiping about JBoss's acrimonious relationship with Sun, and about the JBoss Group's new rival, the Core Developers Network, which was formed recently by a number of ex-JBoss Group workers.

The JBoss Group, the Atlanta Georgia-based company that controls the development of the open source JBoss J2EE server, has been embroiled in a year long dispute over the certification of JBoss. Sun would like JBoss to be certified as J2EE compliant, but the JBoss Group says that Sun's certification process is expensive, and ultimately unimportant to their customers.

"Do our customers say, 'we need you to be certified?' No," said JBoss Group Director of Sales and Business Development Ben Sabrin. His company is still in discussions with Sun about J2EE certification, he added.

JBoss users at the conference echoed Sabrin's comments. "Certification, in my mind, is not that important," said Andrig Miller, the vice president of technical architecture with Corporate Express, a 12,000-employee office-supply company based in Colorado. Corporate Express recently moved applications from two J2EE certified products, WebLogic and WebSphere, into JBoss without any difficulties, he said. The open source app server would likely pass certification, if JBoss ever attempted it, he predicted.

Officials at Sun agreed. "With a good faith commitment to compatibility, they could become (compliant) so very easily," said Rick Saletta, a Sun Marketing Manager for OEM Licensing.

However, he questioned the "good faith" of the JBoss Group, suggesting that the company's Founder and President Marc Fleury had been using JBoss's status as an open source project to unfairly avoid the J2EE certification that Sun demanded of other companies. "We don't want to be seen as anti-open source, and he's been hiding behind that wall," said Saletta. "Marc Fleury and the JBoss group are standards renegades," he said.

Fleury denied the charge. "The certification brand is a product and there's a price to it," he said. "The price has been expensive in the past, and it was more than we were willing to pay... I think the certification for open source should be free," he added.

JBoss Group hosted a free movie screening for attendees of the shadow conference. The film? "The Matrix Reloaded."

The "Matrix" reference was intentional, said Fleury. "When somebody joins us, they leave their corporate reality and take the red pill to go to JBoss."

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