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Microsoft has struck a technical agreement with open-source software vendor JBoss Inc. that could help both companies compete with IBM.
Engineers from Microsoft and JBoss, which sells an application server and other middleware under an open-source license, will work together in Redmond, Wash., to improve the performance of JBoss products running on Windows. Although JBoss sells its products under a relative of the open-source GNU Public License, or GPL, that Microsoft has criticized as a threat to intellectual-property ownership, and its technology is based on the Java standard that competes with Windows as a development platform, 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. "We want to see JBoss succeed."
Nearly half of JBoss' customers run its software on Windows, according to Shaun Connolly, JBoss' VP of product development. The company believes it owned 34% of the application server market at the end of last year. Microsoft and JBoss compete in the market for middleware and servers with IBM. JBoss has become a threat to IBM's WebSphere middleware, and IBM in May acquired Gluecode Software Inc., another open-source application server vendor, and cut its price to head off JBoss adoption. JBoss distributes its software under the Lesser GPL license that Connolly says imposes fewer restrictions on protection of customers' proprietary software code than the GPL agreement that governs Linux. JBoss charges customers for technical support and software updates.
Under terms of the deal disclosed on Tuesday, Microsoft will provide JBoss engineers with development support so its software performs better with Microsoft technologies including Active Directory, SQL Server, Microsoft management software, and Microsoft's implementation of Web-services specs.
In IT departments, the deal could help companies realize the benefits of JBoss' performance and use of the widely understood Java 2 Enterprise Edition specifications, 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 consulting company for the health-care industry sells a software product called FirstGateway for sharing electronic medical records that uses JBoss and SQL Server database technology. Seven hundred doctors at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle and 2,000 doctors at a Cleveland medical center use it. Says Casper, "In the past, we were left on our own to sort through the integration and performance."