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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

ObjectWeb's salvation

ObjectWeb is a not-for-profit consortium co-founded in 2002 by Bull, France Telecom and INRIA to foster development and adoption of next generation open-source middleware in the industry. The consortium today counts over 50 corporate (including Orbeon) and academic members from three continents and federates a community of thousand individuals from about 80 countries.

Today I read this press release that talks about ObjectWeb reaching out to China via the Guangzhou Middleware Research Center (GMRC). GMRC has about 80 researchers dedicated to developing and promoting middleware technologies, including Java application servers. For those of us who don't know Guangzhou, it's a province near Hong Kong known as one of the most technologically advanced regions in China, with 39 universities and colleges and the highest level of PC penetration in the country.

GMRC's director Hongbo Xu said that China is very serious about OSS not necessarily because of the development model or the quality of the software, but because of the "independence" it brings from foreign vendors. This confirms the trend I had talked about in this post.

ObjectWeb is best known for its open source Java application server, called JonAS. Backed and distributed by Red Hat, JonAS is still far behind the leader JBoss (
backed by HP, Novell, Unisys, CA and others). I thought that this partnership with GMRC (which will provide localized software and documentation for ObjectWeb projects) to expand in China was a very smart move. We all know that an average success in China can mean millions of users. ObjectWeb is quite successful in EU but has a hard time cracking the middleware US market dominated by JBoss. Why not conquer Asia?

In this press release I also learned that the partnership goes beyond ObjectWeb and GMRC. The French and Chinese governments announced their decision to leverage open-source software to expand Sino- French scientific and industrial cooperation on information technologies. Middleware was identified as a key enabling technology for e-commerce, e-government and e-learning.

Let's see how this plays out in the mid to long term, will it really help increase ObjectWeb's popularity in Asia, an area currently dominated by IBM and BEA? Will it get JonAS closer to JBoss? It may sound like a stretch but why not?

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