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JBoss Inc is sharpening its focus on government spenders by creating the JBoss Government Group, while also promising public sector partners in coming months.

JBoss said Wednesday it is making a "long-term commitment" to public sector organizations to help them "avoid proprietary lock-in" and to "save scarce taxpayer dollars" by using the JBoss Enterprise Middleware System (JEMS).

Public sector deals are expected to be similar to support agreements signed with Hewlett Packard and Novell, although JBoss did not provide further details.

By zeroing in on government, JBoss is targeting a potentially rich seam of business at a time when the competitive landscape threatens to become more challenging.

Application server giant IBM recently bought JBoss' rival Gluecode, a move that challenges JBoss from a business and a technology perspective. IBM can now sell to the kind of cost-conscious customers targeted by JBoss, by offering them a subscription-based member of its WebSphere application server family.

JBoss should also expect to see more competition on a feature-by-feature basis, as IBM invests time and resources into advancing the open source Geronimo project, which forms the basis of the Gluecode application server.

Government is an important market for any IT supplier. Not only does it mean business with the immediate department in question, but also means a stab a winning business from suppliers who must often use similar systems to trade with departments.

The government software market accounts for 10 per cent of the word's IT budgets while US federal, state and local government spends $34bn each year on software. Institutions internationally spent $2bn on Linux in 2004, as more than 160 bodies used popular Linux distros or - as in the case of China - created their own distributions.

JBoss claims one in 10 of more than six million downloads of its JEMS stack have come from government users, including the US Defense Department, NASA, State Department and many states including California and New York.

JBoss is no doubt hoping the appointment of the US Department of the Treasury's former chief executive Drew Ladner as government group leader will help open a few more federal doors for the company.®

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