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JBoss aims to fill out SOA offering

Open source company JBoss announces new BPM, transaction and rules offerings, which helps to form what it views as an SOA starter kit.

At the Linuxworld Conference in Boston today, JBoss Inc. is announcing new transaction, business process management (BPM) and rules technology to fill out the SOA capabilities of its open source JBoss Enterprise Middleware Suite (JEMS).

The rising tide of commodity products heralded by open source is putting pressure on the commercial vendors to continue to innovate in order to provide value above and beyond what open source can do.
Jason Bloomberg
Senior AnalystZapThink, LLC

JBoss jBPM 3.1 adds BPM, orchestration and workflow tools, JBoss Rules 3.0 updates the company's rules engine and JBoss Transactions is a transaction server based on technology acquired from Arjuna Technologies last year.

All three are available for free download, said Pierre Fricke, director of product management. JBoss relies on an open source subscription business model, hoping that small and medium sized businesses will venture into SOA without having to make the large upfront investment required when using proprietary software, he said.

For example, he said JBoss Transactions competes in the same space as Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) and IBM Customer Information Control System (CICS).

"We're going to be expanding the market for transaction processing," Fricke said of JBoss Transactions, which the company is positioning as a high end server available for free download under open source GNU General Public License (GPL).

He makes the same case for the BPM and rules engine products being announced today. "We're bringing BPM and rules to the mass market without the six figure investment." Fricke said. The open source products allow business to enter SOA implementation he calls "an irresistible price point."

But while touting the benefits of these open source products and the licensing model, Fricke said it may not be an easy road for traditional software companies to follow.

"In my opinion," Fricke said, "if you're dependent on license fees then moving to a subscription model might be painful. JBoss was designed from the ground up for this model so we don't have that problem."

Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst, ZapThink, LLC, agreed JBoss is making the open source business model work but said it will take more than that to reach the SOA goal.

"The open source business model of selling support and other services can be a challenging way to build a business, but JBoss is clearly one of the success stories," he said. "The rising tide of commodity products heralded by open source is putting pressure on the commercial vendors to continue to innovate in order to provide value above and beyond what open source can do."

However, Bloomberg curbs the vendor enthusiasm for SOA software. "No collection of software -- either open source or commercial -- will give you SOA," the analyst said. "SOA is architecture, which is a set of best practices and the discipline to follow them."

What JBoss is offering with its products is what Fricke called "a top of the enterprise deployment available right out of the box."

JBoss Transactions, officially version 4.2, incorporates Web services transaction standards-based technology from the Arjuna Transaction Service Suite and the Arjuna Web Services Transaction implementation, which JBoss acquired this past December. The Arjuna technology now included in its transaction server supports Web Services Transactions (WS-TX) and Web Services Composite Applications Framework (WS-CAF). It also supports WS-Coordination, WS-AtomicTransaction and WS-BusinessActivity.

Building his case that this is a high-end business transaction server, Fricke said it meets the traditional ACID (atomic, consistent, isolated and durable) test including "two-phase commit coordination and complete distributed crash recovery."

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The JBoss executive makes a similar business and technology case for JBoss jBPM and JBoss Rules.

jBPM supports Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) for orchestrating Web services and integrates with The JBoss Seam, the company's framework which Fricke said makes it easier for developer to create business process elements such as workflows.

JBoss Rules is based on Drools, an open source Java-based rules engine project whose members joined JBoss last fall. The rules product is intended to deliver on the SOA agility promise by allowing business policies to be changed on a daily basis without hardcore Java coding or recompiling, Fricke said. Noting that the travel industry is one of the early adopters of SOA, he used the example of an airline that might want to change a policy to offer a one-day discount for its frequent flyer members. That kind of 24-hour change could be handled by a business analyst using a visual tool, he said.

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