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Getting to the Core of Open Source Development

New JBoss-oriented consultancy company is born

(June 5, 2003) - Yesterday a new entity burst onto the US corporate stage - "Core Developers Network LLC." Its aim: to provide consultancy services to a wide range of Java open-source technologies as well as some mainstream products such as Oracle.

What's the big deal? Well, there is none. It's just another company coming onto the market and we wish them the best of luck in their new venture, especially in this still-slow economy.

But looking at the core individuals of this new company, we do see something a little more interesting. The clue is in their name: Core Developers Network. They are some of the core developers of the popular open-source project JBoss. Now the story does get a little more colorful from here on in. JBoss already has an official consultancy arm, The JBoss Group. This is a company formed to make money from selling services and support to the product that bears its name. JBoss Group is headed up by Marc Fleury, who champions the cause for both open-source JBoss and his for-profit company wherever he goes.

Now it's fair to say that Fleury’s style could be described as being, shall we say, a tad unorthodox at times. In fact, if truth be known, his style of business isn’t necessarily to everyone’s liking. But he has taken JBoss and brought it into the limelight.

Core Developers Network (CDN) is made up of some of the developers who are at the very heart of JBoss’s development. These are the people who have what is known in the open-source world as "CVS-commit" rights. In other words, if you don't convince these people that your change is for the greater good, then your code isn't going to be included. While everyone is free to download and change the source code of open-source projects, it can be a right old game of politics to get your change accepted into the main project. This is the side of open-source that isn't often talked about: while one is led to believe that a project has thousands of developers, often in reality it is perhaps only a small handful that actually controls the main branch of source. (This of course has many advantages, ensuring there is at least some reasonable control over the life of the project.)

Many of the CDN group previously did their consulting through the JBoss Group, but were unhappy at some of the practices and goings on. They decided that the time had come to break free and form a new alliance of developers to offer support and services to open-source technologies.

Nothing new in that, it happens all the time in the computing world. Look at how many people have left the likes of Sun, Oracle, IBM, and so on, started up on their own… and been very successful. Companies like Compaq and Texas Instruments are two successes from ex-IBM employees who thought they could do better. In fact Marc Fleury himself was an ex-Sun employee!

CDN's unique selling point is their relationship to the source code. Who else better to train and support you than the people that actually built it? Well, on the face of it, it sounds like the perfect selling pitch. However, in practice it doesn't necessarily translate too well: the chief designer of the BMW engine, after all, doesn't make the fastest or best driver. Sun proves this every day. The company behind Java, you would think, has an unlimited license to print money - yet at times Sun struggles.

CDN (and the JBoss Group) will need to offer a lot more than an allegiance with the underlying source code if they are to succeed in realizing their dreams.

Many people are creating controversy where there is none. Did they fall out with Marc Fleury? Will Fleury seek to revoke their CVS rights? What does it mean for the main source code branch?

Having spoken to JBoss regarding this, they are not fazed by it. CDN have also said they will still be contributing and continuing with their development of the core JBoss source, they just won't be part of the commercial arm of JBoss.

Bottom line: it's business as usual, and we have another company providing support and validation for the tools around us. This can only be a good thing.

So, Core Developers Network: welcome aboard!

More Stories By Alan Williamson

Alan Williamson is widely recognized as an early expert on Cloud Computing, he is Co-Founder of aw2.0 Ltd, a software company specializing in deploying software solutions within Cloud networks. Alan is a Sun Java Champion and creator of OpenBlueDragon (an open source Java CFML runtime engine). With many books, articles and speaking engagements under his belt, Alan likes to talk passionately about what can be done TODAY and not get caught up in the marketing hype of TOMORROW. Follow his blog, http://alan.blog-city.com/ or e-mail him at cloud(at)alanwilliamson.org.

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Most Recent Comments
anon 08/15/03 11:32:46 AM EDT

Just recently, without notification, the CDN members' CVS commit privileges on the JBoss project were revoked. Also notice that their names are nowhere to be found on the JBoss.org team page (http://www.jboss.org/index.html?module=html&op=userdisplay&id=team ). Not even in the retired section. This is just assinine. These guys wrote the core of JBoss and they're not even given due credit?!

camellia 06/06/03 11:01:00 PM EDT

Several are not replaceable.

jack 06/06/03 08:08:00 AM EDT

Remember - No one is un-replaceable

Eric Rizzo 06/05/03 10:42:00 AM EDT

The key thing that Alan's analysis seems to either miss or ignore is that the CDN represents about half of the JBoss Group consultancy team. I don't think we can over-esitmate or exaggerate the significance of that. I don't disagree that Fluery is resilient and JBoss Group can overcome the loss of such a large portion of its staff; however, I think it is a real possiblity that the fragmentation and resulting confusion could impact JBoss (the project/product) negatively. That negative impact could range from minor to devastating - time will show how the relationship between the project and the two companies now competing for the business around it will develop, and time will also show if we end up with another Unix on our hands.