Dell deal may widen JBoss reach

Computer maker gives nod to open-source middleware

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A peach of a deal

More government agencies will have access to open-source middleware from JBoss because of a deal between the company and Dell. That's the result that JBoss sought when it signed an original equipment partnership announced earlier this month.

Dell's server market and sales operations provide a platform for growth. "We are looking forward to benefiting from their extensive sales force," said Drew Ladner, general manager of JBoss' Government Group.

Under the agreement, government customers will can obtain JBoss support subscriptions from Dell. The company licenses its JBoss Enterprise Middleware System (JEMS) for free. It generates revenue through support services.

The deal is a step forward for Dell, said Judy Chavis, Dell's director of business development and global alliances, because it extends the company's Linux strategy.

Dell's Linux efforts have focused on high-performance computing clusters. But Chavis said "the bulk of the opportunity is around the...application development area, where JBoss fits in nicely."

JEMS includes an application server, Web portal platform and a workflow management system, among other components.

The subscriptions give customers technical support, management tools, bug and patch support, and training discounts. Dell offers a complete open-source solution that encompasses the company's PowerEdge servers, Red Hat Enterprise Linux or Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Server, MySQL database manager, and JBoss application server software.

In July, AEM, an information technology services company, became JBoss' first certified federal systems integrator. Joe Dickman, an AEM managing director, said the Dell alliance will make JBoss' technologies easily available to agencies.

As JBoss becomes more accessible, "there will be more opportunities for [chief information officers] take that leap into JBoss," he said.

Although Dell broadens JBoss' reach, the technology has already made its first government inroads.

Dickman said a handful of AEM's government customers are using JBoss, and others are asking AEM about the software. "They are trying to educate themselves and establish reference architectures," he said.

Savings are one reason why agencies consider JBoss. Dickman said one client expects to save $500,000 in annual licensing fees by replacing BEA Systems' WebLogic portal component with JBoss' portal.

Agencies avoid licensing fees, but JBoss support service subscriptions start at $10,000 for the application server, Ladner said.

JBoss' open nature is another incentive. "While I think the economics are interesting, what is most interesting for government customers is avoiding proprietary lock-in," Ladner said. "That continues to be a huge reason why government agencies are adopting JBoss."

Dickman said JBoss provides an alternative to proprietary middleware products, such as BEA's WebLogic and IBM's WebSphere. "JBoss' quality is right up there with IBM and BEA," he said.

JBoss is also challenging IBM and BEA in market share, according to one market research firm. Respondents to a November 2004 BZ Research survey gave JBoss' application server an edge over IBM and BEA offerings.

When asked what Java application servers were in use at their companies or the companies for which they consulted, 34.8 percent of the respondents identified JBoss. In comparison, 33.9 percent cited WebSphere, and 28.7 identified WebLogic.

Other data suggests that the proprietary firms don't need to worry. IDC recently ranked IBM as the top vendor of application-deployment software, with a 37 percent share. BEA followed with a 12 percent slice of the market. IDC includes application servers and other middleware elements in its definition of application deployment.

Dennis Byron, an IDC analyst of business process automation and deployment software research, said he sees no signs that JBoss is significantly displacing its rivals.

Byron said JBoss ranks well down the list of application-deployment vendors in market share. IDC's market analysis considers software sales and maintenance contract revenue. This methodology does not track the use of open-source products that don't include maintenance contracts.

Byron said JBoss is becoming a strong competitor among small to midsize businesses, but the company isn't a large enterprise player.

Dickman said JBoss deployments in the government may start small, but they can expand. He cited the example of an agencywide deployment in the Defense Department.

"I don't think the others will be dethroned," Dickman said, referring to IBM and BEA products. But he said he believes JBoss has become a contender that can't be ignored.

JBoss at a glance
  • Organizations can download JBoss components from the company's Web site at
  • The company's support subscriptions start at $10,000 and are available through JBoss or its partners, such as Dell.
  • A JBoss subscription includes technical support, JBoss Network operational tools for managing and monitoring JBoss Enterprise Middleware System environments, and protection from claims of intellectual property infringement.

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