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BEA takes JBoss and Sun to task on open source

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BEA Systems' chief executive has criticized former employer Sun Microsystems for open sourcing Solaris while signaling his intention to keep BEA's middleware stack closed.

Alfred Chuang, speaking to press Tuesday, also dismissed rival JBoss for not doing "real" open source because contributions are regulated centrally. He also dismissed the idea open source is suited for some companies and verticals as "total hype".

Chuang, whose business has been challenged by the rise of open source, claimed BEA is a genuine open source company because it supports projects like Apache in its application server, programming tools and framework. The fact BEA contributed some of its own code in the first place didn't seem to come into it.

As such, Chuang appeared to rule out open sourcing BEA's Java middleware, saying business customers do not want to hack around with the application server's code. Picking on Sun's OpenSolaris program Chuang said: "Look at those who blindly open source. Solaris - two million lines of code. Useless."

Chuang went on to criticize JBoss. Marc Fleury, JBoss' chief executive, has prided himself on paying a hard core of developers to maintain the application server and keep development alive. Fleury, speaking at JavaOne last week, re-iterated the point: "We've been a big proponent of professional open source and rejected the myth that with peace and love open source falls from the sky," Fleury said. It's a view shared by Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison.

According to Chuang: "JBoss is open source software for selected people who are approved [and] can participate. [Participation is] selected by Marc Fleury. That's not an open source process. An open source process is an open community process. You've got to have an open source process and open source community."

Chuang was speaking to press at BEA's offices in San Jose, California, the week after the company announced a mixed bag of financial results. BEA has been under the microscope since 2004 when the bottom dropped out of its licensing business and management suffered the biggest exodus since the parting of the Red Sea.

While revenue for BEA's latest three month period jumped 14 per cent to $323m, increased operating expenses took a big bite out of the bottom line and income grew 3.3 per cent to $35m. Operating expenses grew 23 per cent to $210m. BEA blamed the increase on costs associated with the acquisitions of portal vendor Plumtree and business process management specialist Fuego.

Income from services rather than licensing continued to dominate BEA's revenue mix during the first quarter - $190m compared to $132m - a fact BEA justified saying this suited its position as a provider of enterprise software, and helped it work towards its goal - stated by Chuang last year - of becoming a $3bn revenue company by 2008 - up from $1bn.

"Customer support is where all the profitability comes from," chief financial officer Mark Dentinger said. "Once you get a customer you have a long, long, long-term relationship with them."

Asked about BEA's chances of hitting $3bn by 2008, Dentinger said: "That's why I'm here. I hope so."

A year into its AquaLogic Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) strategy, BEA claimed AquaLogic products now account for 10 per cent of revenue. While the WebLogic application server and portal combination still represent the biggest growth opportunity, the WebLogic Communications Platform (WLCP) is not selling as well as BEA had initially expected.

Launched in February 2005, WLCP includes WebLogic SIP Server, which fuses Java with session internet protocol (SIP) for carriers to provide converged voice and IP services, while WebLogic Network Gatekeeper helps carriers ensure quality of service and maintain service level agreements. BEA expects WLCP sales to kick in, in the second half of 2006. ®

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