Analyzing tricks competitors play – Claims a politician would love

This is my third article that analyzes marketing and sales tricks I believe competitors of Red Hat JBoss Middleware use. (see previous articles 1, 2Today, Tuesday November 4th 2014 is an election day in the USA, and citizens have been overwhelmed with political media ads and sound bites for weeks. Some of those make you scratch your head and wonder how a candidate can say that they personally approve some of the messages.1 With that in mind, I thought that it was a good time to call out just some of the competitor claims that I find myself scratching my head about and wondering how they get published.

So how outrageous can competitive claims be? That is a judgement that seems to vary from person to person. I believe that you can rate competitive claims on a broad scale. Some claims get a curl of the lip (like a Billy Idol snarl), a shake of the head, and may be accompanied by a mutter of “guess I can kind of see how that claim is made”. Others get a hearty laugh of disbelief and a “what the *$!% is that” reaction. The scale ends likely vary for you, but I hope you agree that a broad range of reactions is possible. So let me give you just a couple examples of competitive claims that I feel represent claims a politician would love.

Claim: Oracle WebLogic is #1 in market share

Claim: IBM is #1 in market share

OK, so these are actually two different claims I lumped into one. Whenever I see Oracle or IBM make this claim I always cringe. I do this because I feel that measuring market share by revenue is a flawed approach. Such an approach favors IBM, Oracle, and any other vendor who charges license fees as part of its total cost of acquisition. Personally, I see license fees as an unnecessary software usage tax. A practice that deserves to die. But I digress… Red Hat JBoss Middleware products have no license fees associated, and a total cost of acquisition that is commonly just a fraction of other competitors. Therefore, when you need to count in ratios of 5:1 or perhaps even higher to get Red Hat subscription revenue equal to Oracle or IBM license revenue, I believe an uneven playing field for measuring market share is established. The impact of high license fees on market share can be amplified even more when prerequisite software purchases are counted—like Oracle WebLogic Suite required for SOA Suite.

Red Hat does not not release product-specific revenue or customer figures so establishing a market share number is not something I will try to establish. But it does seem reasonable to conclude that with customers around the globe trusting Red Hat JBoss Middleware to enable their mission-critical solutions, including: Sprint, RSA, Emirates Airlines, Nissan, Mazda Austria, Siemens Energy, NYSE Euronet, Nationwide, The Travel Channel, Allianz Austria, GEICO, Verizon, and many more, Red Hat has indeed established relevant middleware market share. This quote from the Gartner report entitled “SWOT: Red Hat, Application Infrastructure and Middleware, Worldwide” speaks to this point: “Red Hat is often positioned as one of the top three Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) technology providers, along with IBM and Oracle.

Claim: Built on an open source integration platform, Mule ESB offers many of the benefits of open source2

Let me cut to the chase and say that technically, when MuleSoft says its ESB products is “built on an open source integration platform”, I concede they are right. However, “built on” has a different meaning than “is a”. I don’t see that Mule ES Enterprise “is a” open source product. In my opinion, if a company withholds source code for important functionality, then arguably they are an open core and not an open source company. MuleSoft makes the source code for its community edition ESB public but not the enterprise edition.3 Source and compiled code for major features such as Anypoint Studio, high availability, operational control, security, and other features are only available as part of an enterprise edition subscription.4

What about licensing terms? Red Hat JBoss Fuse and MuleSoft Mule ESB Enterprise have open source licensing terms associated with subscriptions. Red Hat’s middleware platforms are licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License and GNU Lesser General Public License with the acquired FuseSource products covered under the Apache Software License (ASL). Each of these licenses can be found in use by other open source projects outside of the Red Hat portfolio. Mule ESB licensing varies depending on if you are using the community or enterprise edition. Mule ESB Community is licensed under the Common Public Attribution License (CPAL) while Mule ESB Enterprise is licensed via a proprietary MuleSoft license.5

Claim: Technical resources for WebLogic are 34% more affordable than JBoss resources

In a report from ORC International titled “Why Customers Select Oracle WebLogic Server over JBoss”6, that was commissioned by Oracle, the claim is made that technical resources for WebLogic are 34% more affordable than JBoss resources. Really? People who specialize skills to work with proprietary technology are more affordable than those who use similar open source technology? Something tells me a lot of open source experts would like that to be true so they can afford some more creature comforts and geek toys. After all, there are very talented professionals in the world working with open source software.

I took a look at salary trends for administrators, developers, and consultants for JBoss, WebLogic, and WebSphere on indeed.com. What I found was that the average annual salary for JBoss, WebLogic, and WebSphere administrators is $99K-102K. For developers the range was $101K-$102K. For consultants, the ranges was similar to administrators at $99K-102K. While demand and availability of skilled resources can vary based on geography, the overall trend is that there is little variance in salaries between those with JBoss, Oracle, or WebLogic skills.

Claim: The XA (2 phase commit) transactional integrity bug that was never fixed in EAP 5 still exists in EAP 6, making JBoss unsuitable for any application that must guarantee integrity of simultaneous updates to 2 or more data sources”7

Transaction support in JBoss Enterprise Application Platform has been a topic found in IBM competitive material for many years. Those who have monitored this topic may remember an IBM video from 20098, and the associated JBoss response in 20109. More recently, a Prolifics paper commissioned by IBM in 2012 and quoted above claims that there are functional issues related to JBoss Enterprise Application Platform transaction management capabilities that, as Prolifics positions, render it unreliable and unusable by customers.

Hogwash. There are no known issues concerning XA transaction management like those indicated in the Prolifics paper. Given the 20+ years of ongoing development and proven track record for the JBoss Transactions module–originally a commercial product from Arjuna–and the use of JBoss Transactions by major high-demand customers such as New York Stock Exchange/Euronext, Union Bank, Continental Airlines, and others, such a basic flaw could simply not be allowed. Does anyone really think Red Hat customers would maintain subscriptions year after year with such a huge hole existing in documented functionality?

Claim: “If you run on WebLogic, Tomcat, JBoss or other platform you have no way of separating Java workloads and no way to preserve a predefined level of SLA for multiple applications sharing your platform, unless you create redundant layers for each workload and pay capital and operating costs to maintain these layers.”10

This IBM claim is associated with elasticity features that enable a WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment edition cell (analogous to a JBoss Enterprise Application Platform domain) to grow or shrink dynamically. You know… something you get from a cloud environment. With Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform running on OpenShift Enterprise or OpenShift Online by Red Hat you get elastic capabilities in an on-site, on-line, or a hybrid cloud environment. All with Java EE 6 full platform capabilities. This is something IBM can’t offer for WebSphere Liberty on BlueMix–a public only cloud offering.

I also question the ease of use and cost effectiveness associated with using this IBM functionality in real world deployments. Can a customer easily, reliably, and consistently identify the conditions where deployment topologies can grow and shrink without code changes or risking the ability to meet service level agreements? Do applications have usage peaks and valleys that compliment each other such that one or more applications can shrink deployment footprints while others grow larger within the constraint of fixed license entitlements quantities? Are there times in the year when all applications must be deployed using concurrent peak profile usage? Even when answers to questions like these can be reached, what is the level of confidence that can be assigned to the runtime rules? These questions, and others like them, are hard to answer. Customers who want to use WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment edition elasticity mode must answer questions like these to determine the maximum number of license entitlements required to support production applications. Logically the number of entitlements needed also specifies the maximum licensed capacity of production systems. Customers who are successful at this exercise may be able to reduce the amount they spend with IBM on WebSphere Application Server entitlements. However, if a customer underestimates the number of maximum entitlements needed, they will likely need to purchase more entitlements from IBM to avoid using unlicensed software.

Claim: Red Hat JBoss Middleware is more expensive than…

Selfless plug for my previous article titled “Analyzing tricks competitors play – making the claim that list price comparisons are misleading”.11 You can also find multiple papers on RedHat.com that compare the total cost of acquisition for multiple Red Hat JBoss Middleware subscriptions compared to a variety of competitors.

1“Stand By Your Ad” provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bipartisan_Campaign_Reform_Act) (a.k.a. McCain-Feingold) passed into law in 2002.

2“Open Source Integration.” MuleSoft. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <https://www.mulesoft.com/resources/esb/open-source-integration>.

3“Open Source Integration.” MuleSoft. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <https://www.mulesoft.com/resources/esb/open-source-integration>.

4“Mule ESB Enterprise.” MuleSoft. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://www.mulesoft.com/platform/soa/mule-esb-enterprise>.

5MuleSoft Products and Licensing – http://www.MuleSoft.org/MuleSoft-products-and-licensing

6“Why Customers Select Oracle WebLogic Server over JBoss.” ORC International, 1 Feb. 2012. Web. 31 Oct. 2014. <http://www.oracle.com/ocom/groups/public/@ocom/documents/webcontent/1515767.pdf>

7“IBM WebSphere® Application Server V8.5 vs. JBoss® Enterprise Application Platform V6 TCO Analysis.” WAS v8.5 vs. JBoss v6 TCO Analysis. Prolifics, 14 Dec. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <http://prolifics.com/was-jboss-analysis.htm>.

8“JBoss transactional integrity issue – JBoss fails to properly handle transactions.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Dec. 2009. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzWVXRoe15Y>.

9“Demo: JBoss Transaction Integrity.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Nov. 2010. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4bX11AYPaQ>.

10Kharkovski, Roman. “Which App Server Is Best for Consolidating Unpredictable Java Workloads?” WhyWebSpherecom Blog. 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 31 Oct. 2014. <http://whywebsphere.com/2014/10/28/which-app-server-is-best-for-consolidating-unpredictable-java-workloads/>

11Naszcyniec, Richard. “Analyzing Tricks Competitors Play – Making the Claim That List Price Comparisons Are Misleading.” Jboss Developer. 22 Oct. 2014. Web. 31 Oct. 2014. <http://planet.jboss.org/post/analyzing_tricks_competitors_play_making_the_claim_that_list_price_comparisons_are_misleading>

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