Why IBM passed on JBoss acquisition

IBM considered acquiring open-source Java middleware company JBoss, but chose to go a different route for the both financial and technical reasons, said Steve Mills, senior vice president and head of IBM's software group.

to be in negotiations over a JBoss acquisition. The price tag for such a deal is reported to be between $200 and $400 million.

Like Oracle, IBM has a closed-source line of Java middleware called WebSphere.

In May last year, IBM purchased Gluecode, a small company with less than 15 employees which was building a support business around the Apache Geronimo project, an open-source Java application server.

Gluecode appealed to IBM in part because it was small and new enough to be acquired for a "modest" amount, Mills said. "I don't want to pay large sums of money in this area because it doesn't grow the way a normal software business grows," he said.

IBM has not publicly disclosed the purchase but an IBM insider confirmed that transaction was valued at substantially less than $50 million.

Big Blue also had issues with JBoss' technology, said Mills. JBoss' Java application server contains a significant proprietary component even while it adheres to the Java 2 Enterprise Edition standards.

"JBoss has a lot of proprietary JBoss. It's sort of a hybrid model of open source," Mills said.

On a technical level, Gluecode's strategy better fit IBM's overall software strategy of sticking to industry standards. And Gluecode had a strong affiliation with the Apache Geronimo project, he said.

"As a technology and as a company, (Gluecode) had a reputation of adhering to open community standards and practices."

The roots of Gluecode are at JBoss. A small group of developers left their employment at JBoss in 2003 to start the Apache Geronimo project. Apache Geronimo was certified to meet the Java 2 Enterprise Edition standard in October last year.

IBM has rebranded Gluecode as WebSphere Community Edition. It sells support services around the software primarily to smaller businesses.

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