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JBoss eyes front-end technologies

"Now that .Net has come along, which is easy to code with, much is needed to simplify Java," says a company exec.

JBoss is considering moving beyond middleware with a framework that will make it easier for companies to develop Web applications in Java.

There are already various open-source projects that provide frameworks for developing Java-based Web applications, such as Struts and Apache Cocoon. These frameworks allow Web developers to separate presentation from content and business logic.

But Sacha Labourey, European general manager at JBoss, said he does not feel the current open-source solutions are satisfactory, so the company is hoping to work with a project and offer a framework as part of the JBoss stack.

Labourey called current solutions inadequate. "There is no standard," he said. "It is enough to say there is nothing good enough out there. Customers would be happy if we made a choice. They would say, 'If it's supported by you, you improve it and standardize it, then that is definitely of interest to us.'"

Labourey said one problem with the current Java frameworks is that they are too complicated, which can be a problem if a company only wants to create a simple Web application.

"If a company wants to create just five forms, it takes them four weeks to understand it," Labourey said. "Its very complex to do. ASP.NET is good; too bad it's not in the Java camp."

This is not the only project that JBoss hopes to simplify. The current version of its application server, JBoss AS 4.0, has implemented aspect orientation for Java, a programming methodology that makes it easier to add the same feature to multiple Java objects. JBoss also has four developers working on the Hibernate project, a "persistence engine" that stores Java objects in relational databases.

Labourey said it is important to simplify the Java language, not just the tools through which it is developed, so that it can compete effectively with .Net, Microsoft's rival programming language.

"Now that .Net has come along, which is easy to code with, much is needed to simplify Java," Labourey said. "During the last one or two years, the situation has been that major Java actors have simplified Java by making fancy IDEs. Instead, we are simplifying both the development and the tool."

The news of JBoss' interest in front-end technologies comes before the company's planned announcement on Monday of the JBoss Enterprise System. This will include training, consulting and professional support for external products such as Hibernate and the Tomcat servlet engine.

"We have switched from JBoss being an application server to being a company that provides a whole stack," Labourey said.

JBoss also plans on packaging certain parts of the stack, such as the JBoss Microkernel, the core of its application server, so that companies realize they can use it as the base of their server applications.

"The Microkernel is at the heart of JBoss," Labourey said. "We now see lots of telco companies using that Microkernel. We need to brand it--so that people know this is something you can use for that purpose."

With the JBoss Enterprise Middleware System, the company is trying to build the JBoss brand around its entire portfolio, rather than individual software components, said Marc Fleury, the company's founder and CEO. A single JBoss brand is meant to emphasize that corporate customers can purchase a single support contract for all of the individual JBoss software products, he said.

Pricing for the support service starts at $10,000 an application per year. Customers also have the option of acquiring an unlimited support license, which can reach several hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

Ingrid Marson of UK.Builder.com reported from London. CNET News.com's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report.