The move from JBoss comes as a strategic step in its attempt to achieve critical mass in the Java/J2EE enterprise software segment with open source projects. By employing lead developers in mainstream open source middleware products like Tomcat and Hibernate, the company offers comprehensive support contracts and custom designs to IT departments that wish to use these products in mission-critical systems. The company calls its strategy "professional open source."
For the people at jBPM the alliance is a stepping stone into grater notoriety in the open source community, given JBoss's clout and ties with major IT departments. It also serves to differentiate jBPM from similar projects like Gluecode's BPM and OpenFlow.
Perhaps even more important is the way a BPM suite can enhance open source software. Software such as Linux at the operating system level and JBoss/Tomcat as application servers have been widely adopted because they offer similar -- if not superior -- functionality compared to their pricier closed source counterparts. BPM software, on the other hand, has heretofore held the niche status of an expensive and proprietary product.
Companies that produce J2EE enterprise software, such as IBM, BEA, and Oracle, have invested heavily in BPM suites and the development of Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), its standard usage language, which was developed under the umbrella of the Oasis Consortium. These products allow software vendors to make unique and distinctive offerings to corporate software buyers. But that strategy may not hold up in the long term, now that open source products are available in the value chain of middleware software, and are being backed by professional services firms.
No doubt this move into higher-level applications will serve as a test case for future open source software development projects targeting niche software markets, and prove if the grass is as fertile as it has been for other companies offering open source services in mainstream markets.
Daniel Rubio is the principal consultant at Osmosis Latina, a firm specializing in enterprise software development, training, and consulting based in Mexico.