A Good Cup of JOE

Although the battle between JBoss on one side of the application server paradigm and BEA Systems and IBM on the other side gets most of the attention, there's another player on the open-source app server front that's worthy of attention.

Gluecode delivers an app server called JOE that's crafted from various open-source projects managed by the Apache Software Foundation. Included in JOE are the Apache Geronimo app server, a JSP and servlet container, messaging, the Apache Derby database and the Apache Pluto portal.

Managed by Jeremy Boynes, who serves as CTO, the approach that Gluecode is taking differs markedly from JBoss in that rather than creating an offering based on people making contributions to a project managed by a specific company, Gluecode is trying to commercialize a set of products that anybody affiliated with the Apache Group can contribute intellectual capital to help build.

That difference in approach, argues Boynes, means that Gluecode is not trying to create an oligarchy managed by a few individuals but rather a commercial outlet for the work done by thousands of people contributing to a broadly endorsed open-source project.

Furthermore, Boynes argues that this approach is more economically viable because his company does not have to directly fund as many developers as JBoss does, and because Gluecode is using a truer open-source model, it can use a standard BSD-licensing model rather than a lesser GPL licensing model.

This difference in licensing models is particularly significant to anybody who wants to build a custom application, because any enhancement made to JOE does not have to be shared with the rest of the open-source community. In contrast, a lesser GPL license requires that any enhancement to JBoss that will be used by anybody outside the initial licensee must be contributed back to the overall community.

Pricing is another place where Gluecode differs from JBoss. Gluecode charges a flat $3,500 a year for each developer that needs to be supported, rather than the approximately $10,000 per application that JBoss charges for support.

At present, Gluecode has no channel presence at all, but JBoss is not doing much better. JBoss cites Hewlett-Packard as its primary route to market, but when pressed JBoss can only cite a handful of HP partners actually working with JBoss.

The upside is that both open-source companies can make a lot of headway against IBM and BEA in the coming year. JBoss is rolling out a full suite of high-end middleware on top of its platform, and Gluecode this spring will roll out a higher-end, J2EE-compliant version of its platform.

That means both companies will be better-positioned against IBM and BEA at time when companies in the channel are increasingly turning to application development to create high-margin solutions. And if they don't have to share licensing software revenue with IBM and BEA for app server software, solution providers using JBoss or JOE should enjoy higher profits.

Realistically, both JBoss and Gluecode are a long way from becoming major competitive threats to BEA and IBM. But they are early indicators that the open-source movement is about to move up the software stack and beyond the operating system level. And the impact that will have on software infrastructure pricing will most definitely be profound.