When will Microsoft stake some of its resources on open-source software? When the product in question helps Windows sales and takes market share from IBM.
That was the impetus behind a technical deal struck last week in which Microsoft will fly engineers from software company JBoss Inc. to Redmond, Wash., to make sure JBoss' open-source, Java-based middleware runs well on Windows, SQL Server, and other Microsoft products. JBoss sells its products under an open-source GNU Public License that Microsoft has criticized as a threat to intellectual-property ownership, and its technology is based on the Java 2 Enterprise standard that competes with Windows as a development platform. But Microsoft said the deal is meant to help a small software company that influences sales of Windows server software.
"JBoss is an alternative business model and finding great financial success building on Windows," says Bill Hilf, Microsoft's platform-technology strategy director.
JBoss' application server, a crucial middle layer between databases and software programs, claimed 34% of the app-server market at the end of last year, says Shaun Connolly, JBoss' VP of product management. IBM's WebSphere application server had 33% market share. Nearly half of JBoss' customers run its software on Windows, he says.
For IT departments, the deal means companies can combine the advantages of JBoss' scalability and use of the widely understood J2EE spec while assuring CIOs that Microsoft has endorsed the software. "Microsoft put their stamp of approval on this," says Joseph Casper, senior VP of product development at First Consulting Group. The health-care consulting company sells software called FirstGateways for sharing electronic medical records that uses JBoss and SQL Server database technology. "In the past, we were left on our own to sort through the integration and performance," he says. Not anymore, as long as Microsoft has an incentive to help.