JBoss Opens Up Business Process Management

The software will give the channel an open-source alternative to proprietary BPM offerings from traditional application server vendors such as IBM and BEA Systems, as well as a host of pure-play vendors such as Intalio, Fuego and Oak Grove Systems.

>> 'We're good at taking infrastructure and letting [OEM and ISV partners] figure out the rest. People who are doing it proprietary can take what we do and build upon it.'

Fleury, who serves as JBoss' chairman and CEO, said in an interview with CRN that development on the JBoss BPM workflow engine is more or less complete, and should be ready for release in about a month's time.

Fleury said he hopes to extend the business model that has built up around the popular open-source JBoss J2EE application server into the BPM software market. That model, which he has dubbed "professional open source," offers maintenance and support licenses around the JBoss application server and other application development and deployment software. The software itself remains free, and its source code open to the developer community.

"Can we take that methodology and model and replicate it to a new market so the same dynamic happening in our market [will be repeated]? If we can do that across markets, we're sitting on something very interesting," Fleury said.

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The dynamic to which Fleury is referring is infiltrating the Java application server space, where there is increased pressure on proprietary vendors such as BEA and IBM to drive down the price of their application server platforms and rethink their per-CPU software licensing models.

Some analysts and solution providers see vendors adopting a more service delivery-type model over time due to the commoditization of software. This evolution has been led by the increasing adoption of Linux and other open-source technologies, and the development is one key reason why business models such as utility computing and creative packaging methods, such as offering bundles of software and services to vertical segments, have been gaining popularity across the industry.

Vendors are moving more toward service delivery because the products themselves are being commoditized, said Andrew Efstathiou, program manager at research firm The Yankee Group. "It's very difficult to establish standardization upon your product set no matter how successful you are, [with] the customer base unwilling to upgrade or buy the next-generation product set."

Fleury said he sees a clear opportunity for partners as Atlanta-based JBoss expands its professional open-source model beyond the Java application server space, where the company currently is most well known.

This year, JBoss added open-source portal and caching software to its portfolio of supported products. By continuing to expand an open-source product set, OEM and ISV partners will have more opportunities to embed core infrastructure software from JBoss in their product offerings, differentiating on services and the extras they include in the package, Fleury said.

"We're good at taking infrastructure and letting those vendors figure out the rest," Fleury said. "People who are doing it proprietary can take what we do and build upon it."

JBoss also has seen its solution provider partner program pick up steam since it was launched in November 2003, Fleury said. The vendor is especially interested in working with boutique solution providers to collaborate on services built around the JBoss application server.

"We're looking for more of these people [to build] a network of tier two and tier three [solution providers]," Fleury said. "There's not a lot of volume there, but it's very strategic for us. They take us into specialized markets."

Fleury also sees JBoss as the heir-apparent vendor partner for BEA's solution providers should that company falter. Recent organizational turmoil has seen the exit of a number of BEA's top executives--including its CTO, chief marketing officer and chief architect--in the past two months.

Despite the troubles, solution providers have told CRN that BEA's Java-based software is still selling well.

"They are still winning battles out there from a customer perspective," said Sam Jankovich, president and chief revenue officer at Enterpulse, Decatur, Ga.

However, the unrest among BEA's executive ranks and rumors it may be acquired have left some partners uneasy. Fleury said JBoss is ready to pick up the slack with those partners.

"Do they have a replacement plan, a Plan B [if BEA starts failing]?" Fleury asked. "We actually think we're Plan B, because IBM with [IBM] Global Services is a scarier competitor than we are."