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Red Hat Revamps JBoss with Extended Services and Cloud Support

Red Hat today released a significant upgrade of its Java middleware platform consisting of an extended services-based architecture with support for numerous new programming platforms and integration with Amazon's EC2 cloud-based service.

The company launched its JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (EAP) 5.0 at its annual Red Hat World and JBoss Summit, taking place this week in Chicago. Red Hat re-architected its flagship middleware tooling around what the company calls a service-based "microcontainer" architecture. Specifically, the new architecture gives EAP 5.0 the ability to support a range of Java programming and component models, including Java EE, POJOs, the Spring Framework, OSGi, the Google Web Toolkit, several RIA frameworks and some dynamic languages. The microcontainer also makes it possible to separate enterprise services from the core runtime engine, making it more configurable.

"The veneer of the container is sort of 'aspectized' down to something sitting right above the JVM," said Craig Muzilla, vice president of the company's middleware group in an interview. "This allows for a decoupling of any enterprise services and other components. Whether it's clustering, security, messaging, caching or whatever--all these kinds of enterprise services can be decoupled from the container, but they can also be plugged in and used. So if someone wants to do another OSBi implementation, they don't need a completely different platform to do it. And they can do that now with one very, very small footprint sitting on top of the JVM."

The JBoss EAP is made up of several components. The core of the platform is the JBoss Application Server, which is supported by the Hibernate open-source Java persistence framework, JBoss's Seam enterprise Web app framework, JBoss Cache, and JBoss Web Services.

The new release improves on its predecessor in several ways, said Yefim Natis, a distinguished analyst at Gartner. EAP 5.0 adds support for the full Java EE 5 standard, for example, as well as several upcoming Java EE 6 standards, including the Java EE Web Profile concept. It also adds support for distributed transactions and comprehensive Web services stack support. And there's a new embedded version of the JBoss Operations Network administrative console, which serves as an interface for managing and configuring apps, controlling app server operations, and providing performance metrics for both on- and off-premise apps.

Red Hat was the first vendor to offer a commercially available JEE app server on Amazon's EC2, but it wasn't the last. Other app server vendors--Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft among them--have jumped into Amazon's cloud. But because EAP 5.0's microcontainer architecture allows the company to support things like multitenancy and federated security, Red Hat is poised to move beyond the hardware-sharing that it and the other app platform providers have provided to date, Muzilla said. "We have a number projects under way on multitenancy, federated security, distributed cache, and data-grid technology that will feed into this because of the microcontainer architecture," he said.

Red Hat's cloud strategy has outpaced its direct competitors in the app platform space, Natis said but it has yet to offer much competition for the likes of Salesforce.com's Force.com cloud platform or Google's App Engine Web-hosting platform.

"EAP 5.0 is much better than its predecessor," Natis said. "And there is, indeed, a need for an application platform for cloud computing. But the cloud specialists --the Googles and the Salesforces--are way ahead, vision-wise, of all the app platform vendors." EAP 5.0 has been under development for several years, and many large Java shops have been anticipating its release, said Forrester Research analyst John Rymer. In fact, news that EAP 5.0 will be available in the Amazon cloud is a less compelling question, he said, than how it will perform within existing enterprise infrastructures.

"A lot of Java shops are, in fact, looking at JBoss as an alternative," Rymer said. "In particular, those who have adopted it in recent years--who implemented 4.x--have been waiting for the arrival of this wonderful version 5.0. For the last couple of years, we've had a steady drum beat of client requests, stories, and feedback about moving from WebSphere and WebLogic to JBoss. I know they're trying to support their customers who want to move to the cloud, but if we see a massive shift to JBoss, who gives a hoot about the cloud?"

Tied to the launch, Red Hat also unveiled a new collaborative effort aimed at expanding its partner ecosystem. The Red Hat Catalyst Program was created to leverage all of the company's distribution channels. The initiative includes plans for an interactive Web portal, which will serve as the gathering point for all of Red Hat's partners, the company said. Just last month, Red Hat announced it is expanding its channel program adding a new tier of premium partners.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance journalist and author based in Palo Alto, CA.

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