The briefing began with Christophe Ney going over ObjectWeb's background. He told us:
This initiative was started in '99 by three organizations: Bull, France Telecom, and INRIA. Basically, what they wanted was a way to leverage the software results coming from Europe, and from the projects they had done all together for a very, very long time. Instead of only publishing papers together, they wanted to go further. They saw an opportunity to start building a full middleware, a coherent middleware with a worldwide community of players.
Today, ObjectWeb has an impressive, global, and active list of members. Those familiar with Linux and open source will recognize many of the firms who have joined the consortium. The list of members includes such familiar names as MandrakeSoft, Red Hat, SUSE, MySQL, and Apache.
Ney went on to provide a good definition of middleware. He said, "The vision we have of middleware is all the software infrastructure that lies between the operating system and the applications on top of network equipment, stretching from PDAs to mainframes."
I didn't see Eclipse listed among the consortium's members, so I asked Ney why they didn't belong. He explained that actually, they do. Not as a regular member, since they are a "not for profit" organization, but as an Associate Member. It turns out the two projects work closely with each other, each focused on their particular niche: Eclipse for development tools and ObjectWeb for middleware.
The ObjectWeb site notes that "a dysfunction or deficiency in middleware may impact a wide range of applications and even of a whole distributed system. To enhance reliability, performances, and eventually mutual trust, the peer-review of the code that operates behind the scenes, as allowed by open-source, is a must."
Benjamin Mestrallet then brought us up to speed on eXo Platform's history from inception to its joining ObjectWeb. He told us the roots of the company began as a research project at Bordeaux University in France. In the fall of 2002, the project team wrote a couple of articles on The ServerSide which were very well received, and as a result they decided to form a company.
He told us that one of the things that developers like best about eXo Platform is its compliance with Sun's standards. He said, "JSR 168, which is a portlet API, allows you to develop web components and to deploy them in compliant portals. So you can take a portlet and deploy it on the eXo Platform portal. You can then also deploy it, without changing a single line of code, inside the component on an IBM Webserver."
The decision to join ObjectWeb helps eXo Platform to immediately be able to achieve some of its long time goals. For one thing, they've wanted to be seen more as an application server rather than simply as a portal. Mestrallet pointed out:
Most of our competitors are also going to provide the entire stack, which goes from the portal, to application server, workflow, and content management. That's why we've joined ObjectWeb.
Many of the components of ObjectWeb are complementary to eXo Platform Enterprise Portal, and we are also leveraging many features of JOnAS.
He noted that with the high availability and scalability of JOnAS, they had an immediate
access to the high availabilty and scalability required for production ready projects.
Mestrallet told us that Enterprise Portal is 95% complete at this time, and the 1.0 release may be ready as early as December of January.