What’s All The Fuss About?
So, JBoss EAP 6 is here at last, it’s a long time since EAP 5 was released (2009) and the middleware market has changed a lot in that time, how does Red Hat’s latest offering stand up to the competition? JBoss has always struggled in the enterprise, it has historically focussed on being “the developers application server”, being first-to-market with the latest standards and features, but with an unwieldy set of configuration files, and no central management, making it hard to look after in large scale operational deployments. JBoss has always been a collection of disparate projects, pulled together at the last minute into an application server, and it showed. Red Hat made attempts to solve this with the RHQ/JBoss Operations Network tool, but uptake was poor (because developers aren’t interested in operations tooling) and JBoss retained its reputation as a product for developers, with many organisations developing on JBoss and deploying on Websphere/WebLogic. After an abortive attempt to keep plugging on with the old JBoss architecture (JBoss AS community 6), work started on a completely new JBoss application server, taking the best ideas from popular enterprise-grade platforms, and designing a new, integrated application server from the ground up. This new application server was released almost a year ago with the name JBoss AS 7, and it is from this that JBoss EAP 6 has grown.
A New Beginning
JBoss AS 7 took large (but not particlarly bold, given the path was well trodden by the likes of Glassfish, WebLogic and Websphere) steps, a single central configuration file for one (or more) servers, a modular start-up, and a completely new way of managing multiple servers. With the core architecture in place, JBoss AS 7 GA was released to the public, but as I blogged back in August last year, it was too little and too soon. Many features were not yet implemented, and many of those that were had bugs. The features that weren’t working, while they might be considered ‘minor’ to an application developer, were the core features that the application server should be providing, things like security, file access, application deployment, etc. This AS 7 release was only-half finished, pushed out of the door to meet marketing deadlines and make some “noise about JBoss”, but it backfired, with many C2B2 customers, together with members of the London JBUG, commenting that it was unusable and rushed.
EAP 6 - Was it Worth The Wait?
At the time of the AS 7 release, the general feeling among the community was that the product was only half complete, and that people should “come back in a year when it is finished”. Now it is nearly a year later and EAP 6 has been released, did they manage to finish the job? Well the good news is that it looks like they did. The features that were partially implemented or incomplete seem to be there and working, finally giving Red Hat the centrally controlled platform that it needs to be able to compete in the large-scale enterprise market. For me, the main features that make JBoss 7 stand above its predecessors are the domain mode and the central configuration. Between these two, it is now possible to centrally manage the configuration for a large deployment of JBoss servers, eliminating much of the mis-configuration that can occur when having to configure each server and component separately.
Still Room For Improvement
While the platform does seem more solid than it was a year ago, with the necessary features in place, I did find a few small bugs (which is to be expected in a product this big). I still get the feeling that ‘standalone’ mode is targeted more than ‘domain’ mode in the testing, that features are developed in standalone mode and then ‘got to work’ in domain mode, rather than the other way around. I strongly believe that ‘domain’ mode deployments are going to be the choice of most of Red Hat’s enterprise (and therefore paying) customers, and that features and testing should be focussed on domain mode primarily. This runs counter to JBoss’ background as the application server that people code on in their bedroom, while learning JavaEE, but bedroom development is not a particularly lucrative market, and Red Hat are foolish to continue to focus effort there.
Red Hat have released JBoss EAP 6, based on the community JBoss AS 7 project which went GA last year, the changes that it makes are large and sweeping, but were necessary for JBoss to remain competitive in the application server marketplace. The missing features from JBoss 7 have been ironed out, although it still feels a little like the developers are still using standalone mode over domain mode, but overall the product seems to deliver what was needed. Red Hat have made good progress in fixing the issues with the JBoss AS 7 GA release, and have delivered a platform which, with the correct focus, will allow them to not only remain competitive, but push into new market sectors.
On Thursday next week (28/6/12) I will be running a webinar taking a technical look at JBoss EAP 6, from install to application deployment. Please register for this event here, or if it has passed, view the recording on your YouTube channel.