Matt RaibleMatt Raible is a Web Developer and Java Champion. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Over 10 years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Since then, I've authored books, had kids, traveled the world, found Trish and blogged about it all.

Interface21 on Open Source

Rod Johnson in Replies to Nonsense about Open Source says that Interface21 is the only legitimate company that can offer support for Spring. least that's my interpretation...

Ben Speakmon (of SourceLabs) responds with Nonsense about Interface21.

Both articles are good reads. However, I think Ben has a good point:

One final point for Rod: why did you open source Spring at all? If you're so convinced that no one else can offer credible support for it, why not just make it proprietary?

Is Interface21 becoming the JBoss from two years ago? Will they one day make it difficult for companies to provide services around Spring like JBoss has? Fleury and Johnson will say that "professional open source" is the only way to have a truly successful project. While it may be working well for them, I tend to like DHH's stance on Rails a bit more:

I believe a Rails Inc consisting of a large group of core committers would have an unfair advantage in the training and consulting space - easily siphoning off all the best juice and leaving little for anything else. There are plenty of examples in our industry of that happening around open source tools.

It's much more satisfying to see a broader pool of companies all competing on a level playing field.

Disclaimer: In the past, I've provided training and consulting around Spring - in addition to writing a book about it. Interface21 has never done anything to discourage people from using my services. At least they haven't done anything that I know of. ;-)

Posted in Java at Sep 21 2007, 11:10:47 AM MDT 16 Comments

Yeah, DHH is right on the money. Many of the benefits of using open source disappear and the virtuous cycle of open source is broken when single-entity open source companies like Interface21 and JBoss lock-out external committers.

Posted by Dave Johnson on September 21, 2007 at 11:33 AM MDT #

hi there,

JBoss is one of the big successes. I guess that you can bully people INTO not making a big deal of their support for your project(from which you make money/career). JBoss showed the way for Rod Johnson(internface21).

Just like MySQL says that if you use MYSQL plus jdbc drivers in a commercial setting, you need to pay them license fees, Companies(earlier, Commerical now the Professional OpenSource companies) are trying to use FUD to get people to pay up.


Posted by anjan bacchu on September 21, 2007 at 12:56 PM MDT #

My reading of Rod's blog is that companies like OpenLogic and SourceLabs should have a support contract with Interface21 themselves - that way if/when their customers hit a Spring bug then these aggregating companies would have access to Interface21 committers who can fix it in the original source.

The important point IMO that Ben makes though is that anyone can fix bugs in open source - in their own copy and thats one of the beauties of it - and although its always desirable to get that bug-fix back into the original - its not uncommon that with many open source projects you might be waiting quite a while for an official release - so I imagine these support companies can provide a valuable service to their clients by responding in a more speedy fashion.

Posted by Niall on September 21, 2007 at 01:06 PM MDT #

@Anjan: From my experience MySQL uses FUD to get companies to buy a commercial license for their Open Source product when it isn't needed.

Posted by Niall on September 21, 2007 at 01:09 PM MDT #

Spring is funded by the same venture capital firms that have funded JBoss in the past.

Posted by Anonymous on September 21, 2007 at 01:12 PM MDT #

There's one easy example of the positive side of java's success. It allows you to say "who cares what interface21 does or says?" - you've always got T5 IoC/ Guice / the others to choose from if you don't like it.

Posted by Jesse Kuhnert on September 21, 2007 at 03:19 PM MDT #

Very interesting thread. Shades of Bill Dudneys caution about JBoss. I bet the thought process is, "holy crap if I would've kept this under wraps I'd be making tons of money." Of course most successful open source wouldn't be popular if they were closed source. I think what we see is an attempt to put the genie back in the bottle. As we all know, the licenses are structured to make that impossible, that's why we've adopted the framework. Disclosure: used to work for OpenLogic.

Posted by Demian Neidetcher on September 21, 2007 at 05:28 PM MDT #

Thanks Raible, instead of spending the last hr and half writing, I spent it blogging :)

Important stuff, every IT developer should get their head wrapped around this.

Posted by Bill Dudney on September 21, 2007 at 10:03 PM MDT #

I believe that the spirt of free software (in the libre, Stallman sense of the phrase) is really cool, but these "let's makes some bux" guys (JBoss, Interface21, RedHat etc...) make me more uneasy. TBH I'm much more comfortable with Microsoft's blatant model than I am with these dodgy little companies on the margins of the IT biz who seem to be exploiting the goodwill of the free software movement.

Posted by David Thompson on September 22, 2007 at 09:08 AM MDT #

Matt As you say, Interface21 has never discouraged you or anyone else from selling services around Spring. My issue was with specific claims that OpenLogic claimed about open source models. My views on the flaws in the pure "aggregator" model (which takes but does not give) long predate us taking funding. For example, I wrote the following blog over 6 months before we raised money: I think my track record proves that I'm not likely to be a VC's puppet. I'm not short of my own opinions or frightened of expressing them... Rgds Rod

Posted by Rod Johnson on September 22, 2007 at 10:35 AM MDT #

Rod is making the same mistake that some JBoss people did a while ago in thinking that he can speak for all the open source developers out there. I hope that most people join open source projects to scratch their itch and out of genuine interest in the technology, not because they want to turn it into a money maker.

Posted by Eelco Hillenius on September 22, 2007 at 03:44 PM MDT #

Well I don't think (and don't hope) that Interface21 will start sueing companys the way JBoss did, but I certainly see his point the Interface21 (and the venture capitalists in the background) want to get some money in return for their efforts. Let's face the truth: most major open source projects would not be where they are now without a company that is paying at least some developers...

Posted by Kai Grabfelder on September 23, 2007 at 04:35 PM MDT #

There are plenty of open source projects out there that made a lasting impact just on their technical merit, without company dollars. Personally I think that it matters much more to a project whether it's developers are able/ experts in their fields, eat their own dog food and build a community rather than whether they are paid for that work or not. There are certainly examples of projects who are unimaginable without such support, but Spring imho is not one of them.

Posted by Eelco Hillenius on September 24, 2007 at 01:59 AM MDT #

Just my 2 cents :

1 / If I were the big client :

I would not pay for Openlogic services. The software stack is way too large, I do not see the benefits (

But I would consider paying a support fee to Redhat / Interface21 / and maybe even sourcelabs : they provide an integration of selected & tested opensource components (by the way I would evaluate just using appfuse and paying nothing ;)

And I would consider hiring a guy like Matt to solve my problems (that's what linkedin did I think ! ).

2 / As a developper :

I can just fill a bug report / new feature to enhance Spring or Appfuse, for free.

And if the feature is necessary for my client/employer, I can work on it during the day, being paid to do it. Maybe I won't have the right to share the code, but I will ask. And no one could retain me from submitting a jira with some clues on how to solve the problem !

I just hope every companies will not pay for "the magic ubiquitous open source support company", because then they won't need java opensource specialists (consultants or employees) . But I'm confident ;)

Posted by Simon Lebettre on September 24, 2007 at 11:25 AM MDT #

Spring is definitely not the cute, lightweight framework from 3 years back..

Before: "Spring will not try to replace existing solutions or push its own technologies"
Now: "Spring-Webservices is the best thing since sliced bread. Oh wait, we have a whole portofolio to sell you.."

Before: "Spring allows to keep your code portable, avoiding proprietary lock-in"
Now: "Please use these Spring-specific AspectJ extensions (bean() pcd etc)"

Before: "Spring is driven by feedback from the developer community"

Now: "Thanks you for your suggestions. We're not planning any additional work on Spring MVC at this point. However, stay tuned for exciting new features coming to the next version of Spring Webflow"

And on, and on..

Posted by Dave Williams on September 24, 2007 at 02:22 PM MDT #

I've never had anything but positive dealings with i21, and I've never had any with Rod outside of this day. The few Spring guys I've spoken with face to face have been intelligent, friendly, and constructive.

Speaking personally, I will (and have, if you count stupld little build.xml patches) give any bug I fix or enhancement I add to Spring directly back to them on their JIRA. SourceLabs supports me, as well as of all our other committers, in this, and I wouldn't work for anyone that tried to stop me from giving back to the community.

All -- thanks for the thoughtful replies, and Rod, thanks for Spring.

Posted by Ben Speakmon on September 24, 2007 at 04:12 PM MDT #

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