I was introduced to JBoss at m-Qube, when several developers selected it to build the applications that made up the m-Qube initial offerings. Once I got over the initial discomfort of understanding this new system (from Tomcat I had used almost exclusively at Openwave), I fell in love with the elegant JMX microkernel and the powerful built-in features which I had previously had to write myself or bring in with third-party software. I later started building additional components and — most importantly — identified or fixed many bugs in the product. Soon after a few patches, I was able to get access to the source code and make modifications myself. Although I didn't find Adrian Brock or other JBoss developers to be very welcoming of my contributions, my code got to get in.
The system built on top of JBoss at m-Qube eventually attracted several buyers. Last year, the company was bought for $250 million in cash. Without JBoss, and the fact it was open source (free software) and open for me to add critical features, I'm not sure we could have easily built the software that we had. Perhaps if we were on top of a proprietary system our market valuation would have been less? It's hard to say. Sometimes the features, such as the messaging system, were buggy causing outages. There were problems in upgrades to newer versions that caused random start-up class-loading hell, some bugs that got me up in the middle of the night on the phone with our operations team. But proprietary software is not necessarily less buggy, and if it is, you rely on your vendor for help and cannot often fix the problem yourself. That puts you in a powerless situation many times.
Last year, I quit m-Qube after acquisition by Verisign. I was ready to move on from my four years. I was actually looking at JBoss as a potential employer and had interviewed with them, to join with the JBoss Messaging team. I turned them down, because they offered less salary than m-Qube was paying. It also seemed likely I would be working hard or harder than I was at m-Qube, which was pretty hard and tiring, and Autodesk was attractive for being (likely) less stressful.
One of the downsides with Autodesk was I would be "forced" to work with BEA WebLogic. This is not entirely bad, as Weblogic is arguably the best proprietary application server. However, it was immediately evident that Weblogic was missing many useful (perhaps key) features that JBoss provided back in 2002. And as part of the next release of a system, I'm considering JBoss Microkernel integrated with Weblogic as a way to gain some of the features I miss.
Autodesk has been very kind in allowing me to go to JavaOne. Typically, when a largish company is doing well, they allow their developers to go to trade conferences. I don't know to what end, though I'm learning a bit of this and that. It's unlikely that many things will be adopted by the fairly conservative division. If anything, I understand my position as a Java "expert" a bit better.
I'm also here to have a good — though educational — time. From the JBoss.org website, there was a party scheduled for tonight, which simply required a registration form to be completed. I was generally curious as to the content (Who goes to these events? What sort of food or music do they have?) as well as I wanted to meet some of the developers I usually interact with only on-line. Now, I don't really have "friends" I continually interact, mostly people who from time to time send me messages. But I wanted to put a face to these people.
I met a few non-JBoss developers from Holland. Some JBoss people were kind enough to approach us. I met some old guard JBoss developers. I also met a developer from Singapore working on some distributed processing software built on top of JBoss. I ran into the JBoss recruiter who was interested in finding "top level" Java developers. I talked about my reasons for turning down JBoss (stated above). And despite any body's outward interest, I rambled on about some of the software I worked on, on top of JBoss. I ate some food and drank free beer. The party started winding down around 8:30PM.
I wish the JBoss team a lot of luck. I hope that, if for some reason, I get fired from Autodesk or can't find work elsewhere, I can work with the JBoss team. And I'm sure if I moved to Fiji they'd let me work there, and that sure would be convenient.