What is it?
There are all sorts of ways of defining market share. IBM may dominate the "application deployment server market", followed by BEA and Oracle, but JBoss claims "the most widely used Java application server (AS) among enterprises that leverage AS technology".
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JBoss, like the WebSphere and WebLogic ASs, is a J2EE-certified platform for developing and deploying Java and web applications. The difference is that it is free to download and use, distribute and embed. To the J2EE foundation, JBoss has added features demanded by enterprise users such as clustering, caching and persistence.
News that Oracle is in talks with JBoss, having already added SleepyCat to its empire, is causing dismay among the open source community. The credibility of JBoss's Professional Open Source model, which aims to combine "the best of the open source and proprietary software worlds to make open source a safe choice for the enterprise", could be at stake. JBoss "finds innovative open source projects and professionalises the projectÉ by hiring the lead developers". Will dedicated open sourcers want to work for Larry Ellison?
Where did it originate?
JBoss Application Server was first released in 1999, the creation of a team of Americans and Europeans with backgrounds at companies such as Sun and BEA. JBoss Group was founded in 2001 to provide technical support services. The company became JBoss Inc in 2004. JBoss has offices in the US, Switzerland, London and Bangalore.
What is it for?
JBoss is built around a small-footprint microkernel using Java Management Extensions (JMX) and providing the component model, deployment and life-cycle management.
An AS would be dead in today's market unless it offered a service-oriented architecture, whether or not that actually represented anything new. On top of the microkernel is the services layer, which takes care of transaction and messaging, security and other services, including those built by the user.
The JBoss AS is part of the JBoss Enterprise Middleware Suite (JEMS), a suite of open source products that can be mixed and matched to create a development and deployment infrastructure.
What makes it special?
As well as EJB 3.0, the JBoss Microkernel integrates the Apache Tomcat web server, and Hibernate, an object-relational persistence and query system with its own extended version of SQL (HQL). Enterprise-strength features include clustering, fail-over, load balancing and distributed deployment.
How difficult is it to master?
JBoss claims its support for Enterprise Java Beans "dramatically simplifies" Java programming, although "JBoss for Java developers with EJB3" involves a five-day course. "JBoss for administrators" takes two days, and requires basic knowledge of Windows or Linux, although none of J2EE.
Where is it used?
JBoss is supported and resold by a growing number of partners including HP, Sun, Unisys, Dell, Novell and CA. Telecoms partners include Alcatel, Nokia, Nortel and Siemens. Users include Barclays Global Investors, BBC Technology, Bloomberg, KPMG, Goldman Sachs and Vodafone.
What systems does it run on?
Windows and Linux.
What is coming up?
Like most open source products, JBoss is continually tuned and enhanced, rather than advancing by disruptive major releases.
Rates of pay
J2EE developers with JBoss can earn £28,000 to £40,000 depending on experience. JBoss "technical architects" can earn £50,000 plus.
For online and classroom training, see: www.jboss.com/services/ training/schedule
JBoss runs a certification scheme, at levels ranging from Certified Developer to Master JEMS Architect - which would open the door to the most lucrative JBoss work.