JBoss ponders open source ESB

The JBoss Group LLC may offer an ESB under an open source format, with third-party software vendors able to offer ancillary products to boost the functionality of the ESB, JBoss CEO and Founder Mark Fleury said on Monday.

Other technologies, such as rules engines, also may be offered under open source arrangements by JBoss, Fleury said during a J2EE 1.4 kickoff event here on Monday. JBoss is best known for providing an open source Java application server.

Rules engines, workflow engines, and ESBs "are potential candidates for open sourcing," Fleury said. "Definitely today at JBoss, we think about the stack and what kind of stack can survive in open source." The company, he said, now has the capacity to expand its ambitions.

JBoss is seeking access to a currently proprietary ESB that could be offered through open source, with customers licensing the ESB under either a General Public License or a commercial license. JBoss and partners in the project also could sell support services, Fleury said.

An ESB usually is associated with Web services integration technology and can serve as a service broker, shuttling services and messages around in a network to where they are needed. "The ESB for me is connectors and capacity to do transformation on the messages coming in," Fleury said.

An analyst, while calling the idea of an open source ESB intriguing, nonetheless had reservations.

"I think the problem is, ESB is not a defined concept," said Shawn Willett, principal analyst at Current Analysis.

Under JBoss' plan, JBoss would maintain the source tree for the ESB. JBoss and ISV partners would add to the ESB with read and write access to the source tree.

"The idea is I want to prove that we can do professional open source trees in a different way," Fleury said.

"We'd maintain the tree for the whole community of professionals," Fleury said. Third-party companies selling solutions in conjunction with the ESB would not be burdened with maintaining the costly infrastructure of the ESB, said Fleury.

ESB technology is trendy of late. Companies such as Sonic Software Corp. already offer ESB technology. BEA Systems Inc. is expected to introduce an ESB offering as well.

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