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J2EE Journal: Article

Pulling at a Thread

Pulling at a Thread

Have you ever pulled at a small thread, hoping to stop it before it eats into the very heart of the fabric and dismantles the whole garment? What started out as small, insignificant issue has suddenly turned into a major showstopper! I think this may be happening in the J2EE space and if we aren't too careful, we'll be left with nothing of any significant use.

I am, of course, referring to the current and very public debacle with JBoss and their push to become J2EE compliant. This is not a tussle between good and evil, nor is it a tussle of David-and-Goliath proportions (as Sun has been known to refer to it on occasion). To say so would merely dramatize it more than necessary. The media is being played and, all credit to Marc Fleury, he is playing them like a fiddle. Just look at all the free publicity he has managed to stir up for JBoss through all the major news outlets. Bottom line, you don't have to look far to find a JBoss story.

What is the real story? I have talked to both sides over the last few months, trying to get at the fundamental problem. I have talked to JBoss developers and other J2EE licensees to get their views. I have even listened extensively to various users in a variety of mailing lists and Web forums.

There's a lot of noise being made about JBoss becoming certified. Sun's Rick Saletta, group marketing manager responsible for J2EE licensing, claims JBoss needs to license the J2EE compatibility test suite. There are suspicions that JBoss won't pass the Test Compatibility Kit (TCK), but JBoss claims it will. While neither side is legally allowed to use the TCK until JBoss licenses it, I would wager that the tests have probably already been run by both sides. Fleury tells me that issues previously pointed out by Sun that would make them fail the test have been addressed ( page_display.cgi?193).

So, with that, let's assume for a moment that the issue isn't technical. What else could be stopping the official J2EE logo from being applied to JBoss?

This is the question I asked Fleury.

"The J2EE brand is not a seal of quality; it is just a brand. The Sun reference implementation is certified, yet not fit for development or production." While, technically, I can't argue with him there, the certification is surely a contract of trust. When a developer calls a particular API or utilizes a library, it has to behave as the specification spells out. It is the J2EE logo that tells the developer that the application server has passed all the tests.

Fleury responded by saying that the J2EE specification "is vague, with many issues left to the vendor," and was quick to point out that any failing of expectation from any JBoss API call was quickly reported and fixed by their large community of developers. I imagine this is one of the strengths of the open source model.

JBoss say that the J2EE stack only makes up around 20% of their code base with their AOP framework contributing to the larger part. Fleury has said he and JBoss are still committed to supporting the J2EE standard and will, if asked, even contribute the AOP framework into the JCP process.

Fleury feels he doesn't want to pay for the J2EE brand just yet; the JBoss community at this moment doesn't need it. This stance will surely upset a number of other J2EE licensees who have had to toe the line and pay for the privilege of being J2EE certified. I asked a number of them about this, and while they didn't want to be named, it's fair to say they weren't too impressed with JBoss, and many of them were asking for JBoss to simply remove all mention of "J2EE" from their documentation and Web site until they are certified.

The question remains: Where will it all lead? Is JBoss pulling at the thread of the J2EE T-shirt? Is the J2EE "brand" at risk? Or is the API still safe?

More Stories By Alan Williamson

Alan Williamson is widely recognized as an early expert on Cloud Computing, he is Co-Founder of aw2.0 Ltd, a software company specializing in deploying software solutions within Cloud networks. Alan is a Sun Java Champion and creator of OpenBlueDragon (an open source Java CFML runtime engine). With many books, articles and speaking engagements under his belt, Alan likes to talk passionately about what can be done TODAY and not get caught up in the marketing hype of TOMORROW. Follow his blog, or e-mail him at cloud(at)

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Most Recent Comments
Mike 07/08/03 11:53:00 AM EDT

Phil ranted:
>>Sun put in the time to organise
>>everything, and they made there
>>standard OPEN.


>>Why should they or anyone else give
>>away there solution for free?


>>(Fourthly, learn to spell)

It's "their" not "there".
Pot, Kettle, Black.

Phil 06/05/03 10:40:00 PM EDT

It occurs to me that the fact that JBoss is uncertified is a sure sign of concern about it is compliance and performance. And to those of you saying this, that, and the other thing about Sun, consider this: The people at JBoss could never have come up with a comprehensive standard like J2EE. You ought to thank Sun for organising the community. Why do you people think everything should be free? Sun put in the time to organise everything, and they made there standard OPEN. (Furthermore, Sun contributed many technologies - Java, JSP, RMI, etc. I don't see JBoss doing that) Why should they or anyone else give away there solution for free? If you carry on like a pack of children, you'll all be steam-rolled by entrenched proprietary technologies from Microsoft and co.
Secondly, to those of you venting your anger about how you don't know how to use the APIs - Try reading the books from Sun Microsystems Press. Really, it's not brain surgery.
Thirdly, I have JBoss installed, and I don't think it's very good. For one thing, the documentation is largely unreadable.
(Fourthly, learn to spell)


VINAY SONI 06/05/03 09:23:00 PM EDT

They are just interested in money. Large corporates use large Vendors like BEA and IBM. So, DAO is not even part of EJB. SHITY EJB-Entity beans are.

Same logic works here. JBoss is free. So is that a problem? No. It becomes a problem when Big Vendors loose out to JBoss and fail to sell.

Lost money.

Yours and mine gain.

Vince Marco 06/05/03 05:37:00 PM EDT

You question whether JBoss is pulling the thread on Java/J2EE. I think this is turned around, and it is perhaps Sun who is pulling the thread on J2EE/Java.

Consider that JBoss is perhaps the most portable J2EE app server in existence. Sun's own app server is perhaps the worst platform-independant app server, and BEA is rapidly growing more tool dependancies on Windows all the time.

Open Java & J2EE as open standards and make compliance based on if the tests run, not whether you can pay for the license.

I think at the moment JBoss/Fleury understand what Java is and needs to be perhaps even better than Sun does.

Jin Chun 05/15/03 12:30:00 PM EDT

"I imagine this is one of the strengths of the open source model". Are you imagining it, believe it, or discount it? IMHO, it is an obvious strength, but your quote to me at least shows your bias either against JBoss or fleury himself. If the "other J2EE licensees" who wish to remain "unnamed" aren't impressed with JBoss, then it would be nice for them to articulate the reasons why. It would also be nice to see the quality of the products throughout the past couple of years in comparison (e.g. websphere 3.5/4 JBoss 2x/3). Is there a "big name" vended app server that doesn't directly use some open source component either contributed by them or completely independently? Probably not. Even WAS 5 uses commons logging from jakarta. Add ANT, JDOM, xerces, xalan, log4j, struts, etc. etc. It would be more interestin to see how many of the core architects/developers are looking at the open source code of JBoss and others to see how they are doing things and incorporating those ideas back into licensed products. I'm sure it happens.

Jasen Halmes 05/09/03 09:00:00 PM EDT

JBoss is the best appserver on the market, bar none. I am certified as a WebSphere sysadmin and I have used Weblogic as well. And please show me the portable deployment code from either of those app servers, I spent months porting an app from one to the other. JBoss is the only app server I haven't yet written proprietary code in.

In my opinion J2EE certification doesn't mean anything anyway. If I wasn't using JBoss right now I'd probably be using .NET or a roll-your-own solution in Perl or PHP, so Sun should count its blessings that JBoss came along and saved the pathetic state of J2EE app servers for them. In fact they should drop their app server flat and simply distribute JBoss as the J2EE reference implementation.

Jasen Halmes 05/09/03 09:00:00 PM EDT

JBoss is the best appserver on the market, bar none. I am certified as a WebSphere sysadmin and I have used Weblogic as well. And please show me the portable deployment code from either of those app servers, I spent months porting an app from one to the other. JBoss is the only app server I haven't yet written proprietary code in.

In my opinion J2EE certification doesn't mean anything anyway. If I wasn't using JBoss right now I'd probably be using .NET or a roll-your-own solution in Perl or PHP, so Sun should count its blessings that JBoss came along and saved the pathetic state of J2EE app servers for them. In fact they should drop their app server flat and simply distribute JBoss as the J2EE reference implementation.

Siegfried Honsek 05/08/03 06:19:00 PM EDT

What you guys should not lose sight of:
If Java fragments, it is doomed. Big companies are not looking for 35 different flavors of Java, none of them really compatible with the others, but each deemed SOOOOO much better by its believers. You may think of .NET what you want, but while all this haggling is going on, Microsoft is quietly catching up. In the mobile computing space, the major obstacle to sweeping adoption of J2ME has so far been the lack of compatibility between implementations. Get the hint? The focus should be on how to make things simpler and easier to use, while maintaining compatibility, but this seems a challenge that is too big for some.

Michael Anthony 05/08/03 03:20:00 PM EDT

J2EE certification is a commerical offering from Sun that they charge for or will provide to non-profit open source efforts via the scholarship program. This is justified by the effort that went into the creation of the CTK and the hours spent verifying conformance. This gives a vendor the J2EE certified brand. Note that no one but Sun and the vendor can validate this claim. No one else can even see the CTK let alone try it out on a vendors platform.

J2EE conformance is a statement to the effect that an application server supports the collection of APIs formally known as J2EE. These APIs are publically available through the JCP, so what is to stop anyone from developing a non-certified and yet conformant implementation of J2EE? As long as the vendor does not claim they have passed the J2EE certification, I don't see why there should be a problem with claiming support for J2EE. This in fact should strengthen the J2EE API because another vendor is supporting it.

How is this any different from the Java developer certification? Programmer X claims he knows Java. Programmer Y claims he knows Java and is a Java certified programmer. Unless you can actually see the programmers' work, neither claim really means anything. So JBoss is an application server that claims to know and support J2EE and you are able to try it out and even see how it does this via the source. That is all I need from an application server vendor. For Sun to be bitching about such a server is just an attempt to make money in a way that is stepping over the bounds of their stewardship over Java.

Matt Gregory 05/07/03 11:09:00 AM EDT

I am an ebusiness R&D developer and system admin. My $0.02 is just this: Weblogic is bloated, slow, and crashes often. JBoss is light, fast and does not crash (not yet at least). I don't use the features that Weblogic has and JBoss doesn't simply because they are more timeconsuming to integrate in to code and support than they are worth in the time the save.

I have pushed JBoss neither because it's free nor because it's open source. I pushed it because it was the best solution we could find.

I wrote a streamer application which allows us to embed web content from unrelated servers into jsp pages. In weblogic it took me a week to figure out where to put the required options to deploy and use the URL resources because of their crappy design. In jboss I simply deployed the webapp without changing the default config at all and it worked. Now if that's not J2EE compliant then BEA should loose their certificiation as well.

Additionally, I have 2, 10 server clusters so.

Weblogic = 10 * $20k/seat * 2 clusters == 400,000 for licenses.
JBoss = 10 * $0/seat * 2 clusters = $0 for licenses.

JBoss support == 50 hrs for $10k
Weblogic support = $120k year but it takes 2-3 days to get an answer and their tech support is dumber than a cooling pile of donkey dung. (IMHO)

Alexander Jerusalem 05/07/03 10:51:00 AM EDT

Sun need to decide if they want J2EE (and Java for that matter) to be an open standard or a product. This continuing mix-up of commercial interests with compliance questions is bad for everyone including Sun.

Kirk Pepperdine 05/07/03 08:15:00 AM EDT

I seriously question how Marc Fluery can be allowed to declare that JBoss is a J2EE compliment application server. Who has certified that it's compliment? And if JBoss is allowed to make this claim, what is to stop others from making it? And why should those who have paid for the certification have to be compared with those who haven't. I say to Marc Fluery, either JBoss should either anti-up, or drop the pretense that JBoss is a J2EE compliment server and stop brow beating Sun for trying to maintain the J2EE label.

D. Avraamides 05/06/03 09:34:00 PM EDT

We use JBoss because it solves a problem and solves it well. If we've done things in a way that makes our code less portable to another J2EE server, well who cares? Most of that can be handled by XDoclet, and portability is often overrated.

And how exactly does this childish stance by Sun help popularize Java? The WORA myth was debunked years ago so they should let go of that claim and focus on evangelizing good examples of Java technology ... like JBoss.

Curt Smith, SCEA 05/06/03 08:03:00 PM EDT

Thanks Mike, you said it well. I can only
add that I'm so sick of hearing that J2EE is anything more than a crusty bag of tough to use APIs, some like EJB-Entities that are out right broke and are barely usable without serious compromises to typical DBA designed prexisting schemas. I hope the crusty bag of rough APIs called J2EE does become a non-issue and replaced by what we really need; a real commercial ready RAD framework that we can spend our time solving business problems and not learning and fighting low level APIs.

Good luck to us end users trying to make $$


Mike Boucher 05/06/03 04:44:00 PM EDT

I guess Sun's FUD campaign backfired. LOL! Now everybody knows who JBoss is if they didn't already before.

I can't see how JBoss not being certified splinters the J2EE community or brand in any way. CORBA was a dominant specification for years and they never had a TCK.

The thought that the TCK is " a contract of trust" or protects a developer or company to be able to switch to another provider is just plain nonsense. Vendor lock-in is easily achieved through all the proprietary switches for clustering, locking, caching, database mappings, etc.. that the specification is ambiguous on or hasn't defined yet.

I do hope that JBoss gets certified soon. I'm so sick of hearing this debate and can't wait for Sun's crappy RI to become obsolete.