Microsoft, JBoss Unveil Interoperability Pact

That's the mantra Microsoft is chanting with its plans to offer more interoperability with JBoss, a leading open-source middleware stack. On Tuesday, Microsoft and JBoss announced that they are looking at ways to enhance interoperability between the Windows Server and the JBoss Enterprise Middleware System (JEMS). Microsoft also said it plans to bolster support for JBoss in the Windows Server.

Though the two companies compete with their Microsoft .Net and Java software, they said improved interoperability will help customers run JBoss on Windows servers.

The companies& technology engagement will include "technical assistance and guidance" designed to optimize the performance of JBoss on Microsoft's Active Directory integrated sign-on and federated identity capabilities and of JBoss' Hibernate object/relational mapping tool and Enterprise JavaBeans 3.0 on Microsoft&s SQL Server, according to Microsoft. The two software vendors also aim to better collaborate on Web services connectivity using the WS* standards endorsed by Microsoft and to develop a JBoss Management Pack for the Microsoft Operations Manager management platform.

In the past, Microsoft has vehemently criticized Linux and open-source software and their licensing terms as unsuitable for business use. Yet Atlanta-based JBoss adheres to the Lesser General Public License (LGPL), which deemed as more business-friendly than the General Public License that governs the development of Linux.

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As part of their announcement, JBoss and Microsoft pointed to benefits for customers and systems integrators such as FCG, a $300 million, Long Beach, Calif.-based solution provider that recently integrated its homegrown, JEMS-based portal on the Windows platform for the Swedish Medical Center.

"The solution we develop is built around performance, and the tighter the integration, the better the product performs," Joe Casper, senior vice president of product development at FCG, told CRN on Tuesday. "Microsoft has long treated open source in a pseudo-friendly way, and this demonstrates Microsoft's willingness to accept open-source proucts that integrate carefully with their products and provides, for the first time, their stamp of approval [for an open-source product]."

Although the idea of Microsoft teaming up with any open-source company might seem unusual, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant&s pairing with JBoss jells from a competitive standpoint. Rival IBM sells its WebSphere middleware stack and, earlier this year, acquired Gluecode, an open-source middleware vendor that competes directly against JBoss.

Such deals demonstrate the increasing mix of open-source and proprietary software in enterprise and small- and midsize-business networks, industry observers said. Novell, which sells Linux and proprietary products, has cooperated with JBoss for some time and in March announced a significant expansion of its partnership with JBoss.

Solution providers said the engagement with JBoss shows that Microsoft has no choice but to play nice with open-source solutions that have taken off in the market.

"It's not surprising, as Microsoft has accept that interoperability is key to its growth--hence the settlement with Sun [Microsystems," said Chris Maresca, senior partner and co-founder of Olliance Group, Palo Alto, Calif. "As open source gains ground, Microsoft has to find ways to work with it, or it will wind up being shut out of a lot of accounts."

JBoss CEO Marc Fleury declined to comment on the engagement with Microsoft. But JBoss released a statement that affirmed the deal as positive for its customers.

"Our enterprise customers maintain heterogeneous IT environments, and what we found is that a large number of them deploy the JEMS platform on Windows Server,” said Shaun Connolly, JBoss& vice president of product management, in the statement. “Our relationship with Microsoft is designed to offer existing and future JEMS platform users a solid, interoperable option so they can maximize their use of JEMS on Windows Server."