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The Story Behind JBoss's Boss 119

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 @11:20AM (#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 tweek ( 18111 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:30AM (#15058936) Homepage Journal
      I agree for the most part. I appreciate the attitude Fluery has. It's the same model as RHAT and any number of open source companies. I can't stand this ideal that "making money" or "getting rich" is wrong somehow. Sure you can blast JBoss for not being entirely his invention but you can't deny the visibility he's brought to it.
      • 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-
        • 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
          • You bring up some good points that I'll have to ponder and write about at my anarcho-capitalist blog (see original parent post of mine in this thread). I do believe there are certain abuses that people do that would be considered trespass, but I have not pondered these specific situations enough to make an educated debateable answer.

            Thanks for the answer and the insight, it is always back to the drawing board for us anarcho-capitalists :)
    • by rtaylor ( 70602 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:53AM (#15059194) Homepage
      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)

      Just keep in mind JBoss requires copyright law (at very least) to be in place to make a large amount of their revenue. Most of their documentation, training materials, and entry level consulting and support services (read from the internal answer book and give clients those previously prepared answers) are covered by it.

      Not to mention the fact that all of the opensource software JBoss distributes requires it as well. Without copyright law you are left with public domain. The GPL requires the copyright law to restrict companies from modifying and selling GPL based products.
      • Not to mention the fact that all of the opensource software JBoss distributes requires it as well. Without copyright law you are left with public domain. The GPL requires the copyright law to restrict companies from modifying and selling GPL based products.

        I understand this, but I don't think copyright necessarily does much to create JBoss's market. It seems to be almost anecdotal as there are enough ways to obfuscate open sourced code so that others don't know you've borrowed it from another project. In
      • The GPL requires the copyright law to restrict companies from modifying and selling GPL based products.

        The GPL doesn't have such restrictions. In fact the GPL specifically allows anyone to distribute GPL'd code, as-is or modified or combined with any other code, as long as the modified or combined work is distributed under the GPL and the source code to the whole product is available at no extra charge.

        Really, the whole purpose of GPL is to allow this kind of modification and redistribution.

        • GPL specifically allows anyone to distribute GPL'd code, but only if the distributed code is also GPL'd.

          You cannot take GPL'd code and put it in a commercial product, that would be infringement on copyright and the license itself.

          Copyright law is designed so that there is an incentive for people to produce original work. It is designed to protect artists, designers and programmers, etc, so that they can live and produce creative work without the worry that someone will exploit or abuse their work.

          For exampl
          • GPL specifically allows anyone to distribute GPL'd code, but only if the distributed code is also GPL'd.

            That's what I just said.

            You cannot take GPL'd code and put it in a commercial product, that would be infringement on copyright and the license itself.

            Yes you can. You simply need to license the commercial product to the buyers under the GPL and give them the full source code to it. For example, any commercial Linux distribution (Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Mandriva, Suse...) will include GPL'd cod

            • a distro is considered to be a collection of software rather than once peice thats how the linux distros who include commercial (non-gpl) software get away with it. Also sometimes with buying the traditional distros you were really buying the manuals not the software.

              selling a purely free (as in freely copiable/resellable) product is an extremely low margin buisness as you will immediately get undercut so i'd hardly call it commercial software in the traditional sense.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      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.
    • In regards to capitalism, I've been thinking a lot about the role of open source. It helps eliminate inefficiencies. In other words, you can get the same thing for free. And that will benefit a particular company and the overall economy. There will be more money for other things, allowing a company to get into more markets, pay higher salaries, do more R&D.
    • The problem with the whole "give away your products and charge for support" business model is that the thing you're getting PAID to do isn't what you WANT to do. It's stereotypical but true that many programmers aren't "people persons." They want to PROGRAM, not talk to customers all day.

      Beyond that, this business model would seem to put stress in all the wrong places. If you're charging for service, you've actually got a big financial incentive NOT to make your product straightforward and bug-free; the onl
      • They want to PROGRAM, not talk to customers all day.

        That's why a programmer in a vacuum is useless. All manufacturing laborers (ie, programmers) need additional people to bring their manufacturer product to market. Would a guy who spot welds auto parts be fine by himself?

        If you're charging for service, you've actually got a big financial incentive NOT to make your product straightforward and bug-free; the only reason you're even MAKING a product, from a business standpoint, is so that you have something t
        • "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
          • 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.

            Exactly! In a competitive marketplace, two things generally occur: prices move towards zero, and quality moves upwards. I found the secret to book selling: give it away and then build up your reputation as a desired speaker or consultant.

            There are plenty of writers out there who don't want to do ANY of that. I kn
    • The subtitle "Marc Fleury has taken JBoss to the top, but he has alienated many along the way" rings true. JBoss threaten a lawsuit against the Apache Geronimo project for "code similarities". This alienated a lot of open source enthusiasts. Here is the slashdot article about the claims of code similarities http://apache.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/11/10 /2057218 [slashdot.org].
      • Geronimo was spearheaded by a bunch of former JBoss developers who wanted to be able to sell a closed source copy. They used JBoss to bootstrap, and benefitted from their experience working on JBoss codebase. It's a pretty good assumption that if someone who is not in a cleanroom situation makes something that looks alot like what they are trying to clone, that there is copyright infringment. In big business you'd never get away with this. Think of the extreme measures Compaq took to reverse engineer th
    • 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.

      Essentially open source works because Open Source style companies don't play by the rules that rig the game in favour of the big company encumbant. If you try to beat Oracle by selling a proprietry database, you'll crash and burn, and on the off chance you begin to succeed, Oracle will use its embedded position
    • Pure capitalism is fine and dandy in fantasy land, but you forget the nature of human beings. While some people have good intentions, many people are evil at heart.

      Look at the industrial revolution. Children working in factories instead of attending school, people working in factories with deplorable and hazardous working conditions, employers paying people below living wages, employers hiring illegal aliens (still happening today).

      Sorry that you do not want to pay for music. Tough shit. Who finances ba
      • While some people have good intentions, many people are evil at heart.

        Many people? I seriously doubt this. Most people are egotistical, which is good because it allows them to maximize their benefit to themselves, which means putting them in a competitive position that in the long run means each of us is doing what we're best at.

        Look at the industrial revolution.

        I'm sort of sick of this part of the debate. The industrial revolution changed EVERYTHING that humankind was able to do for thousands of years
        • Many people [are evil]? I seriously doubt this. Most people are egotistical, which is good because it allows them to maximize their benefit to themselves, which means putting them in a competitive position that in the long run means each of us is doing what we're best at.

          But egotistical concerns also lead people to cheat. Some people just plain aren't "best at" a damn thing. They either have a live a pretty poor life, or turn to crime. Not everyone has the potential to be an entrepreneur or skilled p
      • Just out of curiousity, what did you think children did before the industrial revolution?
    • Browsing at -1 below the parent post actually restored some of my faith in the slashdot community ... I just wish that every post that simply disagreed with the notion that 'opensource is true capitalism' didn't get modded into obilivion. Discourse is healthy.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      anarcho-capitalism (an-ark-oh kap-i-tahl-izzum): Noun - See "oxymoron".

      Capitalism requires the rule of law. Otherwise, you'd just firebomb your competition's headquarters.

      Well, OK, we need a police force. But, uh, make it private, because I don't like government.

      Private security forces = cartels. But weren't you just complaining about cartels? Or just government-backed cartels? When it comes down to it, what's the difference?

      Restraint. Good luck with that one.
    • 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.

      Anarcho-capitalists shouldn't believe something which presupposes the existence of money. After all money is state-issued and only a state can grant that these little sheets of printed paper get accepted when you want to exchange

      • what about gold as money? or silver? or another precious metal? Weight in gold could be used as money without a state issuer, no?
        • what about gold as money? or silver? or another precious metal? Weight in gold could be used as money without a state issuer, no?

          Yes, it could - if you wanted the mine-owning nations/organizations/individuals to have all the purchasing power even without producing any consumer goods or offering any services.

          Apart from that individuals can not really determine the purity of precious metals in daily life, unless they come in the form of state-issued coins (Eagle, Kruegerrand, etc.) It is for a reason that

  • by adnonsense ( 826530 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:32AM (#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.

    • It's costing them in the sense that they now give away software or charge very little for their entry level products. Of course the entire market is growing exponentially so they probably made healthy revenues despite all this. But arguably, before JBoss their entry level prices were quite a bit steeper.
    • Java servers feel the open source heat [com.com]

      Online travel-reservation site GetThere calculated that it saved $1.6 million in licensing fees alone by going with JBoss over commercial Java application servers. That figure will double as the company brings another data center online later this year, said Todd Cinnamon, vice president of engineering at GetThere, which is owned by Sabre.

      I worked at GetThere as a Senior Web Developer when they moved from BEA Weblogic to JBoss. Took the core engineering group abou

  • I hate typos. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dwalsh ( 87765 )

    "But while Fleury ... is something of a cult figure..."

    Going certain JBoss Inc. actions (e.g. astroturfing [slashdot.org] ) this is really only one letter out.

    • Re:I hate typos. (Score:4, Informative)

      by slavemowgli ( 585321 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:22PM (#15059511) Homepage
      He's definitely not a cult figure, at least, that's for sure. People like RMS, Linus, John "maddog" Hall and so on are cult figures. Larry Wall is a cult figure, in a way. But Fleury? I'm pretty sure most people won't even know him; if you did a survey among FOSS developers and asked them whether they knew who Fleury is, I'd bet that 99 out of 100 wouldn't (and the last one would be one who happens to work on JBoss).

      Of course, I just pulled that data out of my arse, so you shouldn't quote me on the exact figures. But seriously...
      • He's definitely not a cult figure, at least, that's for sure.

        Some of us have only vaguely heard of JBoss. Even after looking it up, and finding (to no suprise) an endless stream of buzzwords, it seems that what JBoss is in a niche market.

        If you're a web developer, it's probably got something to offer.

        Otherwise, it's only earned a yawn.
        • Re:I hate typos. (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          it seems that what JBoss is in a niche market.

          Only if you consider J2EE ("enterprise java") web application (EJB, Servlets, JMS) containers a niche market. It certainly has/uses its share of buzzwords, but niche it ain't: it's one of the biggest (if not the biggest) platform for "enterprise computing", ie. big-ass companies running their server-side software on.

          JBoss is competitor for (and replacement of) BEA WebLogic, IBM WebSphere, or on lower end, Jakarta Tomcat.

          Above is not a comment on goodness

  • Article Summary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:55AM (#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.
    • ...I keep hearing that Fleury is unlikeable. That people hate him for his outspoken, brash style, etc. That he's money grubbing, that he's bad for open source -- whatever.

      Funny thing is, the one or two times I've spoken to him in person I've walked away going, "Now there's a guy with his head on straight."

      To each his own, I guess.
      • Funny thing is, the one or two times I've spoken to him in person I've walked away going, "Now there's a guy with his head on straight."

        Honestly, I don't know the guy. I was just writing an article summary.
        I think that he might have treated you a bit better than the rest of the 'money-grubbing' world, realizing that you are not a threat to his interests.
        • I think that he might have treated you a bit better than the rest of the 'money-grubbing' world, realizing that you are not a threat to his interests.
          Well ... full disclosure, I'm press. So that's not exactly true.
          • Well ... full disclosure, I'm press. So that's not exactly true.

            Well, press becomes less of a threat if you treat them nicely, obviously.

            • Well, press becomes less of a threat if you treat them nicely, obviously.

              Of course. But the standard technique for dealing with press types for whom you have contempt is to try the "baffle them with bullshit" routine -- this guy has no clue what I'm talking about so I'll just make up some big speech and then walk away while his head's still spinning. I didn't get that from Fleury. Does he make with the hard-hittin' business talk? Sure. But I really do think that's what a lot of customers are looking for,

            • The press might become a bigger threat if your competitor buys lots of advertising from them and takes them out to buy them beers, strippers, etc.
      • There is a pretty strong marketing campaign (to the tune of several hundred millions of dollars potential revenue) to dissuade people from using JBoss, so take criticism "buzz" with a grain of salt. Note that I don't have anything to do with JBoss, or any of its direct competitors, and have never met Marc Fluery, or any of his detractors. Most of his most outspoken critics have received large checks from IBM, BEA, etc.
  • by AtlantaSteve ( 965777 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:09PM (#15059380)
    Mark makes frequent appearances at the Atlanta Java User's Group, where I attend from time to time. He's definately a contraversial figure, but I don't think it has so much to do with him trying to (gasp!) make money in the software business. I think it's more about personality and how he carries himself, which is a "retro" style harkening back to dot-com days most would prefer to forget.

    At the last user group meeting where I remember Mark speaking, he managed to drop at least a half-dozen F-bombs in addition to various fecal-related 4-letter words (this was in a BUSINESS setting). He also spent half the time pointing out how cosmopolitian he is due to years in California and Paris, and hammered home the point that anyone who questions him simply "lacks vision". In short, he comes across as EVERY obnoxious, phony, three-card-shuffle, smoke-and-mirrors aspect of the entire dot-com era... ALL distilled down into one annoying and pretentious walking sterotype.

    The problem with Mark is that he makes open-source SOUND like the dot-com era redux... another batch of vaguely-qualified fruity visionaries with their half-baked business plans. The focus on Mark in the money-making open source market creates the same problems as the focus on Richard Stallman's personality over on the Gnu side. It's the messenger getting in the way of the message.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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
  • by potpie ( 706881 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:34PM (#15059647) Journal
    Concerning the personal end of his life:

    Brash, outspoken, and frequently insulting, Fleury has clawed his way to the top of the open-source pile over the past six years.

    He will be missed.
  • He takes impolite to a new high. His arrogance is exceeded only by his inflated ego. In my life I've never met a person who is so obviously into only one priority--himself. The man has no heart, no soul. I fail to see what value he has for our movement.
  • So he moved into his in-laws' house in Atlanta and focused on contributing to an open-source project that he and others had started in 1999, JBoss. All he wanted to do, he told his wife, was write code for free all day long. "She told me I was stupid," he says, and gave him a year to make $70,000 or else get a job. Then companies downloading JBoss software started asking him for training and support -- and offering to pay. A year later, Fleury had made more than $100,000.

    "Well dear. How about you get

  • I was at LinuxWorld, Sydney [hpcanswers.com], last week. I met a rep from JBoss who immediately started asking me to code for his product. I kept explaining to him that I don't know the first thing about application servers. Didn't matter; he still kept pressuring me to write for him. Essentially, he wanted me to code for free while JBoss makes money. Yeah, I'll get right on that.
  • It would not have mattered in my shop that JBoss was free. We migrated away from Weblogic *after* paying for it, and *after* having it in production for years.

    Despite what BEA's marketing and training droids will tell you, there are many situations where JBoss works better. Much, much better.

    I think the space where app servers like this really live, is a pretty small town to begin with. Lots of people in the industry are quite confused by the whole idea of J2EE, see it as a solution looking for a problem
  • Please don't mod me down for this, but has anyone noticed how Marc Fleury sounds alot like McDonald's McFlurry? if this story had been posted a few days ago I would have thought it was a bad joke

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