San Francisco-based Macromedia, Inc. is de-emphasizing and may be planning to drop or sell off a former mainstay of its business -- JRun Application Server -- from its product line.
Our information, acquired from a source close to Macromedia who asked to remain anonymous,
is that Macromedia has laid off most of the JRun development group in Newton, Mass., and is
using a skeleton crew to forward all service and maintenance orders to a contract group in India.
The company has de-emphasized the product by dropping JRun from the home page on its Web
site. It also refuses to confirm whether it will produce a new version of the server to comply with
forthcoming new Java specifications. "Macromedia's strategic direction (now) is rich internet
applications, and JRun does not support that in any special way," the source said.
"It is no longer a strategically important product, but there is a strong OEM customer base which
generates a low cost revenue stream, so I'd be surprised to see the business get sold anytime
soon," the source said.
If Macromedia does not sell off the JRun franchise, it could go in one of three directions: Enact a
maintenance-only policy for existing installations; establish a new development group and refresh
the product; or cease all activity entirely. The source said that re-establishing the development
group was highly unlikely.
Ironically, JRun 4 was named best application server on the market in this year's Software &
Information Industry Association (SIIA) Codie Awards.
Installed in thousands of systems
JRun, a small-footprint, relatively inexpensive ($899 per CPU) enterprise server now in its fourth
rendition, is installed in about 11,000 systems worldwide. Its main selling factor is that it allows
IT shops to run an inexpensive, small footprint, J2EE 1.3-compliant server anywhere, on any
hardware platform, such as Linux, Unix, and Windows, and on any Web server, including
Apache, and Microsoft. An estimated 100,000 developers worldwide currently use the product.
This product non-development decision, in effect, means that Macromedia -- one of the largest
and most successful Web-authoring software makers in the world -- would move out of the J2EE
app server business, leaving it to such competitors as IBM, BEA, Borland, Oracle, and the Java
mothership, Sun Microsystems.
What this means for its ColdFusion MX development platform, which currently runs atop and is
bundled with JRun, is another question. Macromedia has announced a new version of ColdFusion
MX, code-named Red Sky, which will run independently of the JRun server and will be
configurable to all other J2EE app servers; the current version of CFMX runs only on the major
J2EE servers: JRun, BEA's WebLogic, SunONE, and IBM's WebSphere. The Red Sky beta
program started in June.
The status of JRun depends on whom you talk to at Macromedia. "We can safely say that
Macromedia has no plans to discontinue the JRun product line," Macromedia spokesman Steve
Ballerini said. "It's been a successful product for a long time. This is just another of those
unfounded rumors you hear all the time."
However, there is not a big difference in discontinuing a product as opposed to letting it wither
away by not upgrading it. It's a development versus simple-maintenance-for-the-installed-base
What are the other clues? The key one is that Macromedia is not saying on or off the record that it
intends to produce a new JRun version that will be compliant with Java 2 Enterprise Edition 1.4,
due out any day now from Sun. "We can't comment about future product releases until the
company makes it public info," said JRun developer Spike Washburn.
"Historically, Macromedia has been very quick to upgrade JRun to new specs," said JRun
marketing manager Richard Galvan. "I don't have any idea when we'd have a new version,
because we don't know when the new spec will be done. That's always been the hardest part --
waiting for the final spec to be finished and released."
Galvan said that several J2EE 1.4 features are already included in JRun 4, including JMX
(management extension support) and JMS (messaging).
Competitors quite open about their plans
On the other hand, Macromedia's competitors are quite open about their plans and are busily
upgrading their current product lines for the new specification. All the major companies are
already on record as saying their new servers are well into development.
Rick Schultz, product marketing manager for Sun's application servers, said his company --
unsurprisingly -- won't waste any time upgrading its own servers to the new spec. "We will deliver
a developer release of our Sun ONE Application Server 8 at the same time as J2EE 1.4 becomes
available," Schultz said.
BEA, one of the market leaders in J2EE servers, said it would have new J2EE 1.4-upgraded
products in the market within six months, said WebLogic core developer Prasad Paddama. "We
couldn't afford to be late to market with any of our servers, with a new spec out there," he said.
IBM, whose WebSphere J2EE server is a cornerstone of its enterprise software business, tends to
move much slower in upgrading its products to new outside specifications largely because of
the size and scope of its installed client base. In the past, IBM has often taken a year or more to
adjust its products to new specs, but "we expect to upgrade WebSphere accordingly in due time,"
IBM senior scientist John Shedletsky said.
Borland product marketing manager Tim Di Chiaro said, "We'll probably have our servers up to
speed and in the market within two to six months after 1.4 is released."
Sun, which controls the Java standard, said in February that it would push out the delivery of
J2EE 1.4 specification to this summer. J2EE 1.4, which gives Java licensees the blueprint for
building the next generation of server-side Java programming tools and server software, was
supposed to debut in Q1, but Sun wanted to bring support for the WS-I Basic Profile into the spec
first. The WS-I support is a set of nonproprietary Web services specifications that promote
J2EE 1.4 officially integrates SOAP and WSDL functionality that many vendors already have
added in their Java implementations, Sun senior engineer Mark Hapner said. Additional Web
services backing is being added via Sun's JAX RPC (Java API for XML-based RPC), Hapner
This new spec is especially crucial for enterprise application server vendors, who must invest
substantial research and development capital into producing new, more powerful, and more
reliable industrial-grade servers that can handle the ever-increasing demands of the new and
improved Java platform.
"The app server market is not for the feint of heart. It is dominated by giants and requires massive
resources to survive and grow," said Yefim Natis, vice president of research at Gartner, Inc. and a
specialist in the app server market.
Along with the rest of the IT world, the server business has also had it share of vendors fall by the
wayside in trying to make it in the highly competitive business. In recent years, companies such
as Gemstone, Silverstream, Webgain, iPlanet and others have either folded completely or merged
with more successful competitors.
Gartner: Macromedia had potential, but no vision
Gartner's Natis said: "I cannot confirm this, but I also have indirect indications of de-emphasizing of JRun by Macromedia. I believe this will have no impact on the market at all, with
the exception of the few users who will probably all migrate to JBoss," Natis said. "Macromedia
had a potential but no vision for this market."
Forrester Research, Inc. senior infrastructure analyst Laura Koetzle said that if JRun goes on
automatic pilot, its current customers will have some decisions to make.
"Customers who were just looking for low-cost, reliable J2EE containers will eventually migrate
to JBoss and Tomcat, and customers who want high-performance features will migrate to
WebLogic or WebSphere," Koetzle said. "The key word there is 'eventually'; many customers
who are satisfied with JRun's current functionality will be happy just to stay in maintenance mode
for quite some time."
JRun originally was built by a small Santa Clara, Calif., company, Live Software, in 1996-97.
Web app developer Allaire acquired Live Software in June 1999 for $24.7 million, and
subsequently, Allaire was acquired by Macromedia in January 2001 for $360 million. JRun, of
course, was one of Allaire's central bargaining chips in the merger. Jeremy Allaire, founder and
namesake of Allaire, served as CTO at Macromedia for two years following the merger. He left
the software business earlier this year.
Chris Preimesberger is a Silicon Valley-based writer/editor, a former senior editor at DevX.com,
and a frequent contributor to C/net Networks. Matt Liotta is a longtime CFML and Java
developer and is president and founder of Montara Software, Inc., in Atlanta.