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JavaOne: JBoss on SOA middleware, Java EE and data services

There's traditional middleware and then there's SOA middleware and determining where they might converge or diverge is still a work in progress for vendors, says Craig Muzilla, vice president of Red Hat Inc.'s Middleware Business Unit. At JavaOne in San Francisco this week to tout Tuesday's release of Red Hat's JBoss Operations Network (ON) 2.0 integrated middleware management platform, he acknowledged that the product is only a first step when it comes to SOA management. Before the technology can advance, vendors need to define what makes SOA middleware unique and where it fits into the larger middleware picture, which is a question he hopes to have answered by the end of the year. Since he was at Sun Microsystems Inc.'s annual Java conference, he also pondered the future of the Java Enterprise Edition. And finally, on the one year anniversary of Red Hat's acquisition of MetaMatrix, he offered an update on the emergence of data services.

In terms of the announcement today of JBoss Operations Network (ON) 2.0, your integrated middleware management platform, what does it mean to SOA architects and developers?
It impacts them because a number of environments, whether it's the app server or ESB, you'll be able to manage those runtime environments with JBoss operations network. For SOA architects JBoss Operations Network is important to them in terms of hosting services on the app server. They all need a container to host their services. And we will be using that same operations network product to manage the ESB. In terms of governance of the services that are deployed or exposed that's when you get into the SOA governance tools. That's step two. This is step one. What is being hosted? What is being contained in the underlying runtime environment? In the middleware space, are you seeing two spaces where there will be middleware for SOA and middleware for more traditional apps?
That's a good question. I don't think we – and it's not just us, it's Computer Associates, BMC and anyone that manages a runtime platform – know how the management platform for the runtime environment migrates or starts to incorporate features for SOA governance, for the registry/repository. How do you govern? Who invokes a service, the profile of policy? How does it get invoked and by whom? It's unclear right now how that becomes part of the environment that manages the app server and the containers. I don't think other vendors have pulled the two together, and we have not yet determined how the SOA governance components, when we start to ship those components, integrates with JBoss Operations Network. That's part of our task, to figure out if they're two separate products or if they become one product. It's a little too early to tell yet. Do you think you'll know more in a year, or what timeframe are we looking at?
In terms of how the roadmap eventually plays out, I think by the end of this year, we'll have that level of detail. Turning to Sun and Java, are you satisfied with Sun's shepherding of Java or are there things you'd like to see them doing that they're not?
Sun has made a lot of initiatives with the open JDK and other things to get more participation from the community and have fewer impediments for adoption. We're certainly happy with all the initiatives that Sun has undertaken. I think Java is at a point in its history, having extreme success, extremely wide adoption, and now it really needs to look at stewardship for the future. How does that translate into EE 6, or if there's an EE 7? How does Java react to the lighter weight frameworks? I think there has to be a lot of thought and a lot of flexibility as to how Sun looks at this and how the Java community in general looks at this. So we're pleased with the initiatives Sun has made over the last 12 months or so, and I think everybody needs to be very sensitive to the role of EE and the role of Java in general in the marketplace. And I think everyone is doing that. It's part of maturation. It's part of Java becoming much more important in the computing environment. Do you think Java is at a crossroads?
I don't think it's at a crossroads. I think it's at another point in its evolution where there's going to be change. We are at the point where there is going to be change because of the need for lighter weight runtime environments with more flexibility, that incorporate elements of lighter weight rapid development methodologies. So I think the Java community needs to be sensitive to these new trends, and there's certainly a lot of talk and dialog around this right now. In terms of enterprise Java does Sun need to think about what it's going to do about enterprise development? Because at the keynote this morning there wasn't much for the enterprise developer.
If you look at the level of investment companies have in EE. I'm talking about end-user companies that have huge EE has part of their fundamental architecture. And there's a vendor commitment, not just Sun, but all vendors, including us, as equal partners that have a vested interest in seeing enterprise deployments, enterprise architecture is given a lot of attention. So I think because of the amount of customer interest and vendor interest, there are a lot of people paying attention to it. People have built their infrastructures on Java and it's responsible for driving revenue for airlines and retail, financial services. We're very involved in the whole EE discussion and we have brilliant minds that are very involved in the JEE community and moving it forward.

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Turning to MetaMatrix, you acquired it a year ago, what have you learned about data services and being a vendor in the data services space?
When we made the acquisition it was very clear that the concept of data services and the technology that helped facilitate data services – the canonical data model, data abstraction – were still emerging concepts. But the discussion of breaking up your SOA into business services and decoupling them from the data had drawn a lot of attention. A lot of analysts have written about it. One analyst said the concept of data services is the first thing you should tackle. So I think the marketplace is much more attuned to this since the acquisition took place. With our customers and prospects we have so many conversations now about MetaMatrix. We've done well selling the product, but in terms of the amount of interest: when we're talking about SOA or even Java development, customers ask about data services and MetaMatrix. What we've learned is it is fundamental to SOA. There are a lot of people who are very concerned about how you manage disparate data from different silos and different schemas and make it available and more flexible and not hard-coding so you can decouple the code from the data itself. So I guess what we've learned is the interest level is extremely high. And now we'll see how people begin to adopt it and how it begins to take off.

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