Marc Fleury puts his Red Hat on

Marc Fleury’s red beret is no longer just a symbol of his military service as a former Lieutenant in the paratroopers at Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. Fleury’s authentic French headgear now also represents his allegiance to a different army — Red Hat’s.

“We can’t figure out whether to call it JHat or RedBoss,” joked Fleury, JBoss Inc. founder and now general manager of the JBoss division at Red Hat Inc., who made a brief appearance on stage alongside Jonathan Schwartz, Sun Microsystems Inc.’s new leader, at this year’s Java One conference in San Francisco.

On April 10, Red Hat, the world’s largest Linux distributor, announced it acquired JBoss for US $350 million in a 40 per cent cash, 60 per cent stock transaction. The deal is scheduled to close at the end of the month. JBoss will still hold its annual JBoss World in Las Vegas next month where it will announce product and integration plans, said Fleury. caught up with Fleury at the JBoss party at Terra Gallery in San Francisco, where he talked about Sun’s commitment to NetBeans, how to open source Java and why he’s proud to wear his red hat. At this year’s Java One, Sun Microsystems announced four new plug-ins for NetBeans IDE. What does that say about Sun’s commitment to NetBeans?

Marc Fleury: What I tried to explain yesterday on stage was the fact that Sun should be applauded for committing to the open source community. It wasn’t the situation two years ago, for example. The first word out of Jonathan’s mouth is NetBeans. You realize the commitment, and so we follow their lead there. The development team, which is based out of Prague, feels isolated sometimes. It’s a very similar model to JBoss if you think about it. You have a centralized core and a community.

The big thing that they’ve done and I think is really cool actually is they base their IDE on the assumption that the runtime environment was EJB as opposed to Java. That assumption makes for a very clean architecture because what we’ve been doing for the past three years at the JCP level was standardization of EJB 5, EJB 3 and now WebBeans. That unification of the programming model across the realm, makes for just one use. We removed all the artifacts that the tool used to deal with just to hide the complexity and ugliness of the underlying programming model. There was no intelligence to it.

ITB: Oracle said it has no plans to support NetBeans but said it will continue to support the Eclipse project. Does this concern you?

MF: They’ve announced with WebBeans with us. We announced with Google, Sun, Sybase, Borland and Oracle. It’s normal. It’s a big company.

ITB: In the past Sun has been hesitant to open source Java because of intellectual property and compatibility issues. This year, Sun’s messaging around Java is it’s not a matter of if but how it will open source Java. How is Sun going to do that and maintain standardization across the platform?

MF: We need to get it done so that we stop talking about it every year. The question of how for us it means an implementation, the virtual machine. You open source a virtual machine under CDDL, Sun’s own licence, which is a copy-left type licence. They could do that and that will help it.

If we had a VM, obviously Sun needs to control the branding. Java has become synonymous with portability. You control the branding because you do want the portability. But I think what (Sun) was afraid of years ago was Microsoft branching off with its own version of Java. That threat is no longer here. (Sun) could afford to let the platform evolve as open source does and experiment with development environments.

ITB: Sun open sourced Solaris under its own licence, CDDL. At this point, Schwartz will only say that Sun will use an OSI-approved licence for Java. What model do you think Sun should use?

MF: Have you met Stallman yet?

ITB: No. Not in person.

MF: You should. It’s an experience. The man is crazy. The man is insane. What do you think about GPL 3?

ITB: I don’t think it allows enough for commercialization.

MF: It does, in fact. That’s the copy left part. (Stallman) calls it copy left, which is misleading because there is a copyright. Nobody’s leaving a copy on the table. The licence becomes viral when you extend our intellectual knowledge or IP, which is why (JBoss) never considered applications for example. We have a clear understanding of what we consider our IP and the copy left or reciprocal licences force you to give back to the community either monetarily, which is what MySQL does with the dual licensing model, or through code contribution. They have created a very strong notion of property. There is a property. It’s not communism.

ITB: JBoss is a member of the JCP. Following Red Hat’s acquisition of JBoss last month, will it be joining the JCP anytime soon?

MF: We’re there.

ITB: But Red Hat isn’t.

MF: I do not know.

ITB: Do you think it’s a possibility in the future?

MF: We’re going to close the transaction, God willing, on May 31. We’re having two events. One is the Red Hat event. JBoss will be in Las Vegas in June. There we’ll unveil product plans.

ITB: For combined products?

MF: No. Imagine if it were JBoss but we had infinite resources to do stuff. That kind of thinking. We think about what we’re going to be doing very specifically as a venture capitalist. That’s on the product front. On the integration front, we’ll be in a position to discuss at that time. We’ve done what every company does. We’ve been thinking about integration a lot and we’ll execute on the integration once we close. It’s looking good. It’s looking smooth.

ITB: What will you be doing in the next 12 months?

MF: I’m going to relax. I’m going to slow down. Red Hat is a big platform for us. We’re going to take it easy. Sit back and relax. There’s a very good team over there.

ITB: Will JBoss still exist as a brand?

MF: It will be a division (of Red Hat). I will be general manager of the division a little bit longer (laughs).

ITB: And the beret. Tell me about it.

MF: That’s an authentic French beret for the paratroopers. (Fleury removes the cap from his head.) This is my regiment, 17th RGP. (Fleury points to the label inside the beret.) We were engineer paratroopers. That’s my Red Hat obviously. It’s supposed to be worn on the left side. I want this red beret as a sign of commando unit. A lot of JBossians are very proud today.

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