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The Story Behind JBoss's Boss 119

Posted by Zonk
from the do-it-for-the-greater-good dept.
kosamae writes "Businessweek has an interesting article about Marc Fleury. It's more about the business and personal end of his life than about the technology he's helped to create." From the article: "But while Fleury, like Neo, is something of a cult figure, few people in the old or new software world want to think of him as their savior. Brash, outspoken, and frequently insulting, Fleury has clawed his way to the top of the open-source pile over the past six years. Part of the dislike arises because he's a threat. Even though JBoss brings in only $50 million a year in revenues, at most, from providing training, support, and maintenance services to its users, it has siphoned off some hundreds of millions in market value from the likes of BEA Systems and IBM by giving away free software."
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The Story Behind JBoss's Boss

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  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:20PM (#15058844) Homepage Journal
    The JBoss story is one that is close to my heart -- it epitomizes much of what I believe in when it comes to my hardcore beliefs. I am a true capitalist (anarcho-capitalist [unanimocracy.com]) at heart, and I believe that earning money requires constant work in the field you're in. I don't believe in copyrights and patents either, which are a government mandate to pay residual income on products you've already bought. For me, the software industry is a huge mess of patents, copyrights, trademarks and proprietary code. We pay for a mess of code, and we get what we pay for.

    The idea that you can make a basic product and give it away free in order to support your ongoing labor is an idea I've grasped all my life. I started my first BBS in 87 (13 years old) and used it to build my IT consulting business. I started a 3D video production house that had the same premise: build the models for free and then work on an hourly basis to help the client utilize the models. Today I converted my print newsletters to various blogs that I post for free, which has increased my hourly rate more than enough to compensate for the time I write them.

    I look at all the various cartelized industries: music, movies, software, etc. They base their future incomes on protecting the uniqueness of their software through bad laws (such as copyright and patent) rather than the free market procedure of open competition. Bands can learn from JBoss -- give your digital music away free in order to support your fan base in person. Make your money by continuing to meet your customers' needs in person, and use the previous portfolio of work to show that you're worth hiring.

    Fleury may not have come to his business plan from the same political viewpoint, but I thank him openly for creating the firestorm he has. The big companies have spent years or even decades forming the law around them in order to dissuade competition from entering their markets. By taking advantage of "incumbent-protecting" patent and copyright laws, they made the barrier to entry even harder. Now they have to compete, and they have to do so in a unique manner.

    When people say you can't fight big corporations, it is only because these corporations have taken the law that is supposed to protect our rights and instead made it into a preferential treatment law. Now that others understand the basis of income -- ongoing consistent work and support of your customers -- the playing field might be truly leveled so that others can come in and bring the costs down even more while increasing the quality of products and services we all use and need. That will be true, at least, if government keeps their hands off of open source and other market creations that open the door to more healthy competition. Just want until we have a bigger anti-competition board created at the federal level.
  • by adnonsense (826530) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:32PM (#15058960) Homepage Journal

    ... Even though JBoss brings in only $50 million a year in revenue ...

    Sounds like a respectable sum to me. Where are the figures that show this is costing IBM and BEA "some hundreds of millions" in market value? The TFA doesn't say.

  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:34PM (#15058977) Homepage Journal
    I agree for the most part.

    What parts do you disagree with? I don't necessarily mean let's open the floodgates of debate, but it helps me to get a grasp of the ideas out there. E-mail is fine, too, if you'd rather :)

    I can't stand this ideal that "making money" or "getting rich" is wrong somehow.

    Of course it isn't. Money is nothing but your time stored to redeem in the future. When people talk about "greedy people" they're just mad that someone found a way to sell their time to someone else for more time-saved in the future. Money is very basic, it is when we involve regulations and manipulations in the system that things fall apart.

    Sure you can blast JBoss for not being entirely his invention but you can't deny the visibility he's brought to it.

    I don't think you can blast someone for taking a relatively unknown market and making it wider known. Again, this is the problem we have with the patent-cartelism that exists in many software markets (and other markets). Someone with a good idea can't go out and promote it "for free" even if they wanted to, let alone for money. Competition drives the creation of better products -- it isn't patents that foster invention.
  • Azureus (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann,slashdot&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:43PM (#15059080) Homepage Journal
    The computing public despises Java.

    I'd been running ABC bittorrent client and it sucked, my connection was turned into a snail. Then I switched to Azureus, which is written in java. It doesn't crash, it's stable, fast, and allows me to use my bandwidth however I want.

    This alone erased my prejudice against java apps in Windows.
  • Article Summary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:55PM (#15059215)
    Brash, outspoken, and frequently insulting father of 6-year creates open source program 'JBOSS' and makes money by supporting it. Celebrates by going out with coworkers, consumes beer and strippers.
    Criticizes others for a cynical profit motive, but appears to have one of his own. Inspired by the Matrix, but ironically, people don't like him. Plans on expanding more open source projects and furthering the cynical profit motive.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @01:12PM (#15059417)
    I partly agree with your views but the logic that producing a product for free and paying for that production via in-person services like consulting, teaching, and support seems flawed. The only way this scheme works is if you're good enough to create demand in both areas. You clearly are an accomplished producer and servicer, but I think the best producers would not necessarily be the best servicers and vice versa.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @01:26PM (#15059563)
    Fleury may be an egotistical jackass in his press releases, and blog. There is no denying that. This makes people that might otherwise admire him, despise him.

    However, the guy has created the _only_ full J2EE certified open source appserver, in approximately 1/100th the minimum disk space requirement that websphere has.

    Marc also cares deeply for his users. Before we bought a contract, I called in because of a problem, and talked to Marc himself, who solved it, then we proceeded to discuss about how and when (more importantly when not) to use object messages for over 15 minutes. If that kind of treatment makes him a JO I am sure he's proud to wear the title.

    He's the most sincere caring CEO of a software company I've ever talked to. In fact he's the only CEO of a software company I've ever talked to.

    His company is sure to succeed or get bought trying. He isn't trying to make friends with anyone but the people that matter, his users, and he's embarassing BEA and IBM. If you stand in his way, expect to get redressed. Marc knows what he is talking about, knows what he's doing, does it as well, if not better than, anyone else, and makes no excuses or apologies. He's a 21st century cowboy.

    The best argument the fanboi's of IBM and BEA have is "How can it do anything if it's that small? It's definitely not industrial strength." They all get nervous and defensive when I talk about JBoss... Websphere is a bloated fat pig with some designer lipstick on it.

    Nothing to see here, move along...

    -AC
  • by tweek (18111) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @01:32PM (#15059622) Homepage Journal
    Actually I didn't want to agree totally simply because I've not had time to read up on anarcho-capitalism. I'm a free market guy and capitalist "pig" dyed to the wool but I think some areas I would disagree probably relate to environmental issues.

    Example, in Georgia right now, we have a developer (land not software) who is in the state senate. He's introduced legislation regarding land use that basically says a land owner should be able to put whatever he wants into a waterway (of any size) because it's on his land.

    The problem with this is that things like water and air are not self contained. Sure you can build a dome and pollute the air in that dome all you want but ground water and watersheds don't just exist on your property. Some of those ideas would go against some pure capitalist's ideas of government intervention. I also believe that in several areas, we should err on the side of caution because some things don't present themselves until 40 years down the road.

    Sure Mr. Plant owner, dump all the mercury you want in the river. There's no problem with that.

    I'm facing an issue at my house right now with air quality. My new neighbor smokes like a chimey. Now I've got no problem with people smoking even though I think it's stupid and self-destructive but the problem is that he smokes on his side porch which puts his fumes right into my upstairs bedroom window.

    Now this is his property he's smoking on but it's coming on to MY property and costing me money (can't keep the windows open during the mild temperature days because the smoke irritates me and my wife so we have to run the AC instead).

    I'm all for property rights as long as you can keep it on your property.

    So in that sense, I probably deviate from most pure capitalists because I have no problem with the government telling this guy he can't smoke outside. I also wouldn't a have a problem with the government telling me I can't grow X/Y/Z plant on my property if the chemicals I used to keep the critters off the plants was getting into the groundwater.
  • by ZombieRoboNinja (905329) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @01:55PM (#15059868)
    "I published two books (one self, one through a publisher) that I always gave out freely. The books allowed me to do public speaking engagements for a fee, as well as drove people to my print newsletters that I charged for... I publish my blogs for free, and since I started in November my billable rate has only gone up due to the customer base that has appeared around it. Why should I charge for what is basically marketing?"

    See, this is exactly what I'm talking about. You're not making money from the books so much as you are from public speaking engagements, print newsletters, and customers for your related business.

    There are plenty of writers out there who don't want to do ANY of that. I know one published novelist who's so afraid of public speaking she bit through her lip worrying about an in-class presentation. Print newsletters and other businesses are also not things a novelist would necessarily want to spend time on.

    "Intellectual property" can be of at least as much value in our society as is physical property. In a capitalist society, producers often have the capability of restricting production - for example, oil companies sometimes restrict how much oil gets pumped in order to keep gas prices up, which the actually do need to do (to some degree) in order to earn enough money to pay for new research and exploration. "IP" (the scare quotes are for your benefit) is a similar case, IMO - there's a literally infinite supply available of any IP, thanks to digital media, but the supplier (i.e., the creator) restricts the flow of those copies in order to maintain a profit margin. In both cases, the producers' power is ideally held in check by free competition and market forces, but this can require a fair bit of *gasp* government regulation in the form of anti-monopolistic laws.

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