Tech Industry

JBoss airs expansion plans

Company wants to offer open-source versions of integration middleware and business process management software, CNET has learned.

Open-source company JBoss is looking to expand into integration and business process automation software, potentially through acquisitions, a company executive said Friday.

The company is evaluating a plan to purchase an existing infrastructure software, or middleware, company and make its product available for free under an open-source license, Bob Bickel, JBoss' vice president of corporate development and strategy, told CNET

Other expansion options include taking over an existing open-source project or writing its own integration and process automation software. The company could use some of the $10 million it gained from venture capital investors to finance acquisitions, Bickel added.

"We intend to have an entire middleware stack under a professional open-source business model and grow it on an incremental basis over the next one or two years," Bickel said.

JBoss makes money by offering services and training for a handful of freely available infrastructure software products, notably its JBoss Java application server, which is used to run business applications written in Java. Earlier this year, the company hired the lead developers of a few open-source projects, including Hibernate and Tomcat, and now provides consulting services for the software that those open-source projects generate.

JBoss' plan to make more middleware products available on an open-source basis underscores the growing influence of the open-source development method on the commercial software market. Sun Microsystems, for example, on Thursday indicated that it may transform its own Java server suite into open source and has said its Solaris Unix operating system will ultimately be made open source.

JBoss is looking specifically to open-source, standards-based integration software, called an enterprise service bus, and business process management (BPM) software, which is server-based software for automating complex business processes, Bickel said. Currently, enterprise service bus and BPM software are offered by both large commercial software companies and smaller, specialized ones.

One analyst noted that with a relatively minor sum of $10 million in the bank, JBoss would only be able to acquire a small company.

"They're not going to go out and pick up any of the smaller enterprise application integration or enterprise service bus players out there. It would have to be something pretty low-profile," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at research company RedMonk.

He noted that adding integration capabilities to the JBoss application server mirrors what other Java server companies are already doing and could help make JBoss more competitive.

"Integration is a critical factor in many of the same projects that people are deploying application servers for," O'Grady said. "It's almost as if integration is a new checklist item for application server projects."

Separately, JBoss is expected to announce on Monday that it has completed tests to certify that the JBoss Java application server complies with Java 2 Enterprise Edition version 1.4 specification. Compliance with the Java server standard is important to corporate customers and software vendors that want to ensure that applications written to run on JBoss' server can run on other commercial Java application servers.

JBoss on Monday will release an early version of the JBoss 4.0 Java application server, which will comply with the latest J2EE standard. A completed edition of JBoss 4.0 is expected to ship later this summer, Bickel said.