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The Whole Marc Fleury Phenomenon

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supermike's picture
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Joined: 2006-02-17

Marc Fleury, as you probably know, was the original founder of the JBOSS project, an open source J2EE alternative that has taken off like wildfire. He's also got a straight-shooter style that's sometimes off the chain, or goes too far. But lately I've liked some of things he's said. Well, in recent news all over the web, JBOSS has just been snapped up by RedHat. This is remarkable in two different avenues. It's remarkable that Marc Fleury made a such a monstrously huge success out of giving away software and charging for support. It's also remarkable that Marc Fleury ripped on Red Hat for quite awhile (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/04/10/fleury_redhat_critic/) and now is snatched up by them.

His story is interesting. He used to work for Sun. He left and formed a dot bomb startup that never went anywhere and drove him to bankruptcy in California. I'm sure the tension with his wife was already intense at that time, but then he did the even more astounding thing of moving himself, his wife and daughter, into his wife's home, and then tell her, (paraphrasing) "I'm going to write a whole mess of software, but then turn around and charge for tech support." I'm sure she went ape on him over this. How could he just turn around and do that on the brink of bankruptcy? His wife, an article says, even gave him an ultimatum that he earn at least $80K that year or else. And boldly he sallied forth against that windmill until it became a reality. In the first year, he had a 1.0 release and had already earned $100K from the tech support of it! Up until about a week ago, his company I think was worth about $200M, had about 50 employees, and he owned about 50% of the stock in it.

Marc's personality is also wildly unconventional and the press seems to insist that he's hippocritical, even quoting him telling in one breath to his employees that they should share their ideas, but then snapping at one for sharing ideas that could potentially hurt the company. The press also seem to think that he's ruffled the feathers of many in the FLOSS community by his straight-shooting style. He has been vocal, and I think rightly so, against RedHat's proprietary nature, as the link above explains.

However, the news I read today that RedHat is going to purchase JBOSS for $350M is startling news. Either Marc is going to turn RH inside out and everyone wins, or RH reforms Marc (slim chance), or RH kicks Marc out (likely). Marc can take his golden parachute, however, and float away happily. Or, perhaps RH just includes JBOSS and nothing else happens with RH's proprietary nature.

The whole reason I'm on Ubuntu is because of RH's nature. I didn't like to have my distro hostage after a year, forced to pay for a subscription update. I also didn't like the alpha and beta nature of Fedora. Updates were also a pain. Ubuntu solved all that for me. Ubuntu was innovative, cutting edge, user-friendly, and yet remarkably stable. Updates would be promised to be free and a snap to install. The wiki community that supported it was not so prone to RTFM as much as the RH crowd was. I was so pleased with Ubuntu and it's business model that I floated them about $100 in donation money to help keep their company going. If RH had done the things that Ubuntu had done, then they would have had my cash and my interest, instead.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04

I must say I'm not very familiar with the whole JBOSS and Marc Fleury story. I knew about them for quite some time, but they were always just marginally important for me personally to pay much attention. Besides they're more of a B2B company than B2C (basically meaning oriented more at corporations than plain users like me) and I don't usually follow such companies with as much interest. I also dislike the fact that Java is still proprietary to begin which pretty much keeps my interest in anything Java-based pretty low. In addition I've read an article once about the arrogance that corporations (ab)using the Free Software phenomenon show to it mentioning exactly JBOSS's Marc Fleury as a distinct example. The point was that the corporate types like him tend to view the FLOSS community as unprofessional chaos that needs people like him to bring order and professionality. In other words, we're all just a bunch of geeks, while JBOSS is about "professional open source" which is in their slogan anyway. Ah let's just say I didn't like the attitude. Smiling

The Marc Fleury story is still incredible though. He does seem to posses the strong enterpreneural spirit and seems to have a sufficiently open mind to make a leap into something fairly unknown as Free Software must have seemed to him before his JBOSS success. We need some of that enterpreneural energy and daring.

Still though I kind of have better opinions about RedHat and hope that they can get something positive out of this. I also hope Sun will soon make due on its promises and free the Java finally so I can stop feeling this uneasyness with it.

RedHat's business model is in my opinion valid. The only problem I see is them distributing proprietary software which I principally cannot support, but aside from that their business model is one that works for Free Software. It is however only logical that right customers for such business model aren't actually home desktop users like you and me, but corporate users.

That's why RedHat focuses on them anyway leaving Fedora free to the community. From what I hear Fedora is also improving. There seem to be some good reviews on FC5, but a_thing can tell you more about that as he uses Fedora.

supermike's picture
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Joined: 2006-02-17

Libervis, you sure you don't write for Wired, Forbes, or BusinessWeek? I have liked your statements and this is a good example of it. You need a Linux journalist job! Smiling

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04

Hehe well thanks. Nice way to motivate me to get up to speed on updating my blog and some other stuff around the network that needs to be written. Laughing

However, I think your writing is good to. I could say the same for you. I might have even picked up some of it from you reading good deal of your posts recently. Laughing out loud

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