Red Hat’s planned acquisition of JBoss has raised questions about the future of the Jonas application server, the best-known project to emerge from Europe’s ObjectWeb open-source software consortium.
Red Hat joined ObjectWeb three years ago and helped the nonprofit group to get Jonas certified compliant with Sun Microsystems’ Java Enterprise Edition 1.4 specification. It now distributes a version of Jonas as the Red Hat Application Server, part of its effort to move beyond Linux operating systems sales.
In a conference call to discuss the JBoss deal, Matthew Szulik, Red Hat’s chairman and chief executive officer, said his company has made “a significant investment in Jonas, and we expect that to continue.”
Analysts were less optimistic. If Red Hat manages to acquire JBoss, which is the most widely used open-source application server, it’s unlikely that it will devote significant resources to Jonas as well, or that it will want to support two application servers for customers, said Laurent Lachal of the U.K. analyst company Ovum.
“This is bad news for Jonas,” he said.
Red Hat has been disappointed that Jonas has not been more widely adopted, according to Lachal. Besides JBoss, its main open-source competitor is the Apache Group’s Geronimo application server, which is backed by IBM.
Red Hat will support customers who adopted its Jonas distribution for a while, “but as soon as it can, it will migrate them to JBoss,” Lachal predicted.
Michael Goulde, a senior analyst with Forrester, agreed.
“Longer term, it doesn’t make sense for Red Hat to support something that competes with JBoss,” he wrote in an e-mail response to questions.
Still, the deal could have some benefits for ObjectWeb, which has grown to include more than 50 software projects since it was founded in 2002 by France Telecom SA, Bull SA and the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control.
Red Hat and JBoss may still turn to ObjectWeb for other middleware components to build out their software stacks, Goulde said. “I’m sure that Red Hat and JBoss will continue working with ObjectWeb, as the ObjectWeb platform will be important in several parts of the world,” he said.
ObjectWeb was optimistic about the deal.
“We think it’s excellent news,” said Francois Letellier, a member of the group’s executive committee. Since Red Hat is an ObjectWeb member, and its chief technology officer, Paul Cormier, sits on ObjectWeb’s board, the deal could open a “privileged communications channel” between ObjectWeb and JBoss, he said.
“One possibility is that we’ll work on convergence, either on the code base or on compatibility between the different platforms,” Letellier said.
Still, he acknowledged that Red Hat’s membership doesn’t oblige it to donate any JBoss code to ObjectWeb.
The consortium says some large companies are using Jonas in production, although the ones it has named publicly, like France Telecom, are ObjectWeb founders.
“Red Hat is one distribution channel for Jonas, but it’s not the only one,” Letellier said. “It’s been around for some time before Red Hat and it has a life aside from that, so it will continue regardless of what happens.”
Lachal also doesn’t expect Jonas to disappear, but without Red Hat’s full support, it’s unlikely to achieve widespread adoption, he said.
“It’s not a question of technology—it’s a question of who does a better job of marketing their product and getting people to use it,” he said.
-James Niccolai, IDG News Service
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