Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Java Open Source playing with sharks

(imported from, read comments there)

As a person largely involved in the Java Open Source landscape, I have been observing radical changes during the last 5 years in this area, and the 5 years birthday of Struts makes me comment it some.

Five years ago, I was starting my own Struts clone for PHP to try to bring an MVC model to the rather new PHP OO stack I was using on a customer site. This project ended up pretty much nowhere (e-php on SF) since, well..., I could luckily do something way more interesting.
But back at that time it was rather simple to start a small Open Source project and try to have it grow. Some were actually even considering you as a strange beast when you happened to be part of that world, one of my former employer beeing the first.

At that time, I also remember sales folks arguing that a Java developer had to have "fluent in Struts" in their resume to actually be a good Java Joe developer (before that you had to have "fluent in Javascript" in their mind, so we had made a big progress for the IT consultants thanks to Struts ;-) )

Most of the (good) Java Joe developers where using Apache projects from the Jakarta line mainly as their sole Open Source use in corporate projects, and Tomcat was pretty much the sole Open Source container that you could find in production.

At that time JBoss started to change the game by grabbing several Open Source fames and projects on board (Tomcat, and then Hibernate to name the most famous).
Back in 2002, it became fairly common to see "JBoss knowledge is a plus" in job descriptions for IT consultants. Open Source had started to play with sharks, and you had to play with it, following the "fluent in Struts" move.

Next in the pie, Eclipse went bigger and bigger, and Open Source projects that were used and presented in conferences were more and more backed by someone that could afford it.
At that time I boosted AspectWerkz by joining Jonas' first iterations, all that on my spare time, unpaid, for the fun of it, as most of the OSS committers, bringing my little Open Source load time weaving framework that I had started some month before (beSee on SF).

AOP and IoC started to gain in popularity, and Spring was doing its first moves. It became common to see "fluent in Hibernate" in job description, and I remember the first time I actually noticed it was in february 2003.

I have been pushing the AOP ball since that time as part of my BEA job, and Open Source was more and more playing with sharks. AspectWerkz was backed by BEA, AspectJ revealed to be largely backed by IBM as an Eclipse technology project, and sucessfull projects that you could hear about in conferences where almost all backed by a shark - be it a big open source community like Apache, Eclipse, ObjectWeb that can afford its own events, or by a commercial vendor like BEA, IBM or JBoss.
Even more, some projects happens to be backed by more than one shark. AspectWerkz and AspectJ is an evidence of it thru the AspectJ 5 merger.

Back in 2004 the Spring fame became a shark by its own thanks to a well shapped service model around Rod' Interface21, that obviously adressed (and still adresses) Java Joe developer needs.

Last year I was wondering when I would see a "fluent in Spring" requirement in an IT job description, and it happened this morning, on the same line as "Tomcat, JBoss, Hibernate" for a "challenging J2EE architect opportunity" (interested?).

I have the feeling that Open Source will not be anymore this hectic group of people working for free for the fun of it as that sound to be back in 2000. Open Source is becoming more and more a distribution channel or a big thing to take into account when thinking about return on investment. If you look closely at some open source projects, you 'll also realize that it is rather common that 80% if not more of the workload is handled by a group of people sitting on the same open space.

The recent deal (backed by concrete M$) done around Geronimo (project that was already backed by Apache) is yet another evidence. Open Source is playing with sharks, so you'd better love that. And if you do want to kickstart an Open Source project, you'd better think which shark will play with you if you want your jewel idea to sustain.

As a last evidence, almost every single IT service company in France finally spinned of an official department dedicated to Open Source, bridging the gap with "SSLL" models (french acronym for open source service provider, doing consulting only on OSS stacks) . I have noticed this trend those last few months (Devoteam, Atos to name a few).
This not to comment on the Eclipse phenomenon, with almost all software vendors joining it and shaping their product line in a new more or less anticipated direction.

Open Source is not anymore the thing you use to maximize revenues, or to make sure you recruit uptodate brains. It's the thing you have to play with straight within your strategy, no matter if you are a software vendor or an IT service company.

So what will be the next Open Source moves in the Java are(n)a ?
Happy Open Source thoughts !

(note: dates in that post are those I remember and might be approximations. Aside, the job opportunities I am talking about are all for the French market, so you may expect some delta)