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There are a few Open Source technologies and products that have spearheaded the drive of Open Source into the enterprise and managed to overcome historical objections - Linux, Apache Web Server, MySQL, Postgres, WordPress, Hadoop, to name some of the better known technologies. Those technologies paved the way for the open source revolution of the last decade; every enterprise vendor and every organization has adopted open source to some degree. Open Source has won; get over it.
I think Red Hat's JBoss EAP (upstream WildFly , previously JBoss AS) is one of those pioneering technologies. It's hasn't merely broken through into the enterprise but broken into a strategically important segment that was previously dominated by tech. giants such as Oracle and IBM. It was a segment serviced by Mainframes, Transaction Processing Monitors, Object Request Brokers and highly proprietary 4GLs. As a side note - those same companies are still peddling proprietary products and technologies to solve those same problems.
Building on the early success of Java SE, Java EE was introduced back in 1999 as a collaboration between Sun Microsystems, Oracle and IBM. It was designed as an Open Standard platform for creating complex business applications. At the time, the unlikely collaborators all had a common enemy - Microsoft - who had spent the last 15 years dominating the desktop with their brand of proprietary technology and were starting to make inroads into the data center. How times have changed.
The excitement around Java, the Open collaboration (through the JCP) and the large ecosystem of vendors supporting the standard helped Java EE dislodge previous generations of technology and contained Microsoft's advances (.NET and it's precursor DCOM) on it's own Microsoft only island.
For the last fifteen years, Java EE has been technology of choice for enterprises building scalable, reliable, sophisticated, typically business-critical applications and services. It's proven to be one of the most important and long-lasting computing standards in our industry's history - it's hard (and a little painful) to imagine where we would be without it.
JBoss EAP (even before the Red Hat acquisition) was a market leader (as defined by industry analysts such as Gartner) and even today has continued its leadership position into new segments. It has lead many of the trends such as the original highly modular micro-kernel design (EAP 4 & 5), cloud-deployment, extensible module system, programmable management APIs, and first-class support for modern development tools like Maven and Git (EAP 6). That focus on bleeding-edge design has ensured that JBoss EAP has always been ready to adapt to new architectures, deployment models and development practices. That is no less true today than it was ten years ago.
Today, IT organizations face many challenges - not least is the expectation that they can maintain large complex, intertwined application portfolios yet operate with the speed, efficiency and agility of web companies like Amazon, Netflix and Google. Unfortunately, few companies have the luxury of abandoning their existing applications to rewrite them as cloud-native micro-services using the latest functional, reactive framework.
I interact with enterprise customers on a regular basis and well understand the investment they've made in their Java EE applications and know well that those applications will be in active development and delivering value for years and decades to come. The owners of those applications - whether they are running on JBoss, Websphere or WebLogic need to know that their investment is safe yet they are able to adopt contemporary software delivery practices and new architectures.
Even as we achieve another major milestone in this product's history (with the EAP 7 Beta) - we're already looking ahead to understand how Enterprise Java will need to evolve to take advantages of the latest advances in cloud computing and enterprise architecture. But we do so without losing sight of the huge investment customers have made in Java EE to date. We're pretty excited about the prospects of Java EE 8 but at the same time already experimenting with new ideas in projects like WildFly Swarm and vert.x. Customers want to embrace future advances in technology but have to be able to get the most from their application investment.
About the author
Rich is the Senior Director of the Application Services Business Group at Red Hat. He has spent the last thirty years evangelizing, using and designing enterprise middleware and cloud services. He previously worked for Forte Software and Sun Microsystems and as an independent software developer and consultant building large distributed software systems for the space, transport, telecom and energy sectors.