JBoss got its mojo back?

Interview: Mark Little discusses JBoss EAP 6

Chris Mayer

We talk with the leader of JBoss’s technical direction about their most recent big release and JBossWorld 2012

JAX:You’ve just come off the back of JBossWorld 2012 – how was that?

Mark Little: It was great. The biggest JBossWorld I can recall, with a lot of buzz around things like EAP 6, JBoss Data Grid and the JBoss Way announcements we made last week. It was really nice to hear people talking about the JBoss mojo again!

You spoke on your blog of this, JBoss EAP 6, being the most important release for some time. Can you give more insight into how long planning for EAP 6 took, how many JBossians were involved and why you believe it is a pivotal release in JBoss history?

Well planning for EAP 6 started before we had released EAP 5. So in that sense it’s been in the works for over 3 years. However, real engineering effort didn’t begin until late 2009 when we started the work on what would become the JBoss Modular Service Container – the heart of AS7. In terms of how many people have been involved in the EAP 6 development and release, I’d estimate close to 200 when you include the community involvement we’ve had.

As to why I believe EAP 6 is a critical release for us, it’s a combination of things: first we have proven that EE6 doesn’t require bloated implementations; secondly we’ve shown that standards such as CDI, which we drove, are a great basis for simplifying the development of enterprise Java applications.

Obviously it has been a few years since the last EAP 6 – how have you adapted this time round to accommodate the changes in technology?

The last major EAP release was EAP 5 in 2009. At that point we were just starting to see cloud really taking off. Also mobile and embedded devices were still not considered the domain of enterprise applications. Today cloud is everywhere and ubiquitous computing has entered the enterprise age. So we needed to ensure that EAP 6 would not only be cloud ready from the start so that it’d be running on OpenShift, but also that we could use it as the basis for work we’re doing on mobile and embedded. The lightweight nature of EAP 6 helped us in both cases.

What have you learnt from the JBoss AS7 release and implemented here?

That it’s possible to build an EE6 application server that supports the Full Profile and can run unmodified in the Cloud and on constrained devices. It’s running on a Raspberry Pi, for instance! And we spent a lot of the last 3 years looking at how we can improve developer productivity for EAP releases as well as simplify things such as configuration management. So many of the improvements in EAP 6 and AS7 are because of related technologies such as JBoss Developer Studio.

How did the Early Access Program help you and the team in the long-run when gauging opinion for EAP6?

We got a lot of good feedback from our community users when we released AS7 last year and AS7.1 earlier this year. However, we often find that our enterprise customers put our platforms through things that we don’t typically get with community. So it was good to get their feedback and it helped us to prioritise some feature development over other aspects.

It seems that JBoss EAP and in Red Hat in general have positioned themselves well for cloud environments. Can you explain what is new in EAP6 to help users get their applications in the cloud?

As I mentioned previously, EAP 6 has been designed to be cloud-ready from the start. With the fast boot times, below 3 seconds for the Full Profile, and minimal footprint, this allows us to get the high densities needed on Cloud for PaaS. We’ve also been working very closely with the OpenShift team for well over a year to ensure that every deployment of AS7 and now EAP 6 is integrated with the work they’re doing on payments, dynamic clustering, fail-over etc.

Furthermore, the JBoss Developer Studio/JBoss Tools team has worked with then OpenShift team to seamlessly integrate PaaS deployments into our Eclipse environment – it really is as simple as a single click to deploy into EAP 6 running in OpenShift!

How does OpenShift fit into this? How important is it to link EAP6 and OpenShift together for JBoss looking into the future?

The future for a lot of developers is the Cloud and we believe that OpenShift and EAP6 are the right PaaS. Lots of other things we’ll be bringing to OpenShift, such as BRMS and SOA-P, layer on EAP so having a solid basis on which to work is important for much more than just the EE6 users who will be taking advantage of EAP 6.

What were some key design goals heading into the project – what did you feel the need to improve upon?

Lightweight, fast, dynamic adaptability, easier to understand and use. I think we delivered on all of these.

Can you tell us more about how it links up with other JBoss/Red Hat products?

As with previous EAP releases, EAP 6 will be the basis for all of our platforms. So whether it’s SOA Platform, Data Grid, or Portal, they’ll all use EAP 6 in one way or another. This means that their users will get the benefits I’ve mentioned already.

In terms of middleware, what has been improved upon and which middleware components in JBoss EAP6 excite you the most?

We’ve improved upon a lot in EAP 6 from previous releases, but the ones that really excite me the most include the new JBoss Modular Services Container (it’s key to our ability to be lightweight and have lightning fast boot times), CDI (via Weld and soon DeltaSpike) and Infinispan (yes, there are aspects of our data grid technology within the EAP 6 base platform).

The JBoss Way initiative was announced at  the recent JBossWorld – can you explain what it is and the thinking behind this?

I think it’s much easier if people watch the videos. However, in summary the JBoss Way is our attempt to bring together the masses of information we’ve accumulated over the years, but from our own teams, community involvement and customers, and present the best ways to accomplish various tasks. So the JBoss Way will include things like best practices, tutorials, quickstarts etc. It’ll also impact the way in which our projects and products progress in the future as we make a conscious decision to think about the JBoss Way from the start rather than in retrospect.

Has planning already begun for JBoss EAP 7 – it might be early to say but what sort of features can we expect there?

Yes, planning has started. I was in a 3 day long meeting last week with some of the engineerings teams involved in this. As we’re an open source company, the things we discussed and the plans we’re developing will appear in the community very soon for feedback. But I think some of the things you can expect to see will include EE7 support and more emphasis on a JBoss fabric, which we discuss at the JBossWorld 2011 keynote.

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