News from Sacha (and covered by InfoWorld) that JBoss Application Server 5.0 is close to GA kicked off a debate at TSS.  Some commented that they were “Suspicious of anything that takes three years to develop”, while others questioned if there was anything new in JBoss AS5 that SpringSource and GlassFish (or for that matter Apache Geronimo) hadn’t already delivered.  Others congratulated JBoss on closing in on JEE5 certification and refactoring their runtime to be more flexible.

What caught my attention is the way that Sacha (JBoss CTO) responded to two comments from Douglas Dooley.

When Douglas suggested that JBoss shouldn’t talk about the new microkernel in JBoss AS5 when the real value is in Java EE5 delivered in JBoss AS5, Sacha replied:

“Again, read my blog: we are perfectly aware that many of our customers are using very different APIs to leverage our AS services. Most of them rely on EE, some of them on Spring, etc. And that’s fine. I don’t really mind which “wrapper API” they are using: we are here to support them in their preferred scenarios. What matters is how flexible our underlying foundation is so we are able support these multiple scenarios.”

When Douglas commented that JBoss should ditch their work on other OSes and focus on Linux, Sacha replied:

“No worries, we are doing more than fine. But we are certainly NOT going to ditch support for other OSes: we have a significant portion of our users going in production on Solaris, Windows, etc. and again, that is a matter of choice – we won’t dictate that.”

Why did these responses catch my attention?  Well, it’s not because of the technology decisions that JBoss appears to have made.  The move towards a flexible app server has been going on for years and it’s where the industry is headed.  For example, we’ve been down the flexible foundation path since WebSphere Application Server 6.1 two years ago (with more to come in the next release of WAS due out later this year).  The reason is because Sacha focused on customer choice. Even though we compete, I have a lot of respect for Sacha. He’s way to smart to let dogma get in the way of meeting customer needs. The internal decisions that led to JBoss AS5 and the messaging around the product appear to be a direct result of Sacha (and team) understanding what customers truly seek and where they want to head (i.e. JEE isn’t the answer for every problem).

I’ve long written about how WebSphere has been able to grow significantly faster than the market because of our focus on customer choice.  At times this focus stretches us a little too far as we try to reach the largest set of customers with whatever makes sense for that customer. This decision is not easy on the internal organization, but it really resonates with customers (as our revenue can attest to).

As a proponent of OSS, I’m very happy to see JBoss moving in this direction.  As an IBMer who competes with JBoss AS, I say bring it on ;-)