Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Beginning

In January of 2002 the Atlanta Java Users Group ( held a meeting entitled Application Server Panel where we brought in all the major players at that moment. We had representatives from IBM, BEA, Sun and few others that have since left the game. Our president at that time, Tom Elrod, had worked very hard to invite all the major players and to lay down the ground rules for the event.

Each vendor was given the opportunity to give a 10 minute pitch, why they were the best, how developers could get started with their products and associated costs. We had a standing room only crowd and squeezed at least 150 people into a room that comfortably held 90. It was somewhat warm and claustrophobic. One of our members had known that Marc Fleury had just moved to Atlanta and was behind the open source application server called JBoss. Though the organizers had no confirmation that Marc would show up, he walked in a little before the meeting started and was given the seventh speaking slot for the evening. He had no free t-shirts, no beer koozies and no CDs of evaluation software, no entourage, just himself.

Each vendor did a great job talking up their competitive advantages and how to get access to inexpensive developer licenses and costs associated with production licenses. They had giveaways and they were informative and engaging. Many of them remarked how hard it was to give a sales pitch in front of their head to head competition. I wish I had a photo off all those vendors standing side-by-side with their logo'd shirts, bearing gifts for the audience.

At some point, Marc asked the fellow beside him, the representative for Macromedia (at least that is how I remember it), if he could borrow his laptop and busily started preparing a presentation. All the traditional vendors continued their sales pitches and at last it was Marc's turn. He stood to hook up the borrowed laptop to the projector and he opened with a verbal "In the true spirit of open source, I have borrowed this fellow's laptop for this presentation, thank you" indicating the salesman to his right. This statement got a small reaction from the crowd. His first slide said "JBoss" and then in big bold black letters up flashed "Its FREE". He stated that there was no cost for developer licenses, no cost for production licenses regardless of how many CPUs and you could simply download it. At this point, the audience broke into a applause, cheering, mixed with some guffawing/scoffing. Marc then setup his next slide with a verbal "and what is so special about our technology", click the button and the next slide says "It doesn't suck". This got a big reaction from the attendees and after the crowd settled down, he then went on to explain his vision of open source software, J2EE application servers, why .NET was a good thing and the need for a robust alternative to the commercial proprietary offerings.

It is still the single most memorable JUG meeting held in Atlanta. Several of the meeting attendees have since joined JBoss as employees. Plus, the community was really kick started on the notion of using open source software, so much so, that we promptly setup a meeting for a new framework called Struts and the other technologies available on Now the open source topics are the most popular overall and OSS software technologies have changed the way all Java developers operate.

I'd love to hear your favorite open source project, experience and/or JUG story.