Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The end of the world as we knew it

April 24, 2007 was the day the world changed for MetaMatrix.

For about eight years, MetaMatrix was an exciting startup company that, like all startup companies do, set out to change the world as we knew it. In fact, in one little corner of the world, we did. The phrase Enterprise Information Integration didn't exist before we created it, and technology consultants like Gartner jumped on board. Soon we had some sales, which was good. Later we had competition, which was inevitable. Eventually our investors put our company on the market -- which, for a company of our small size trying to cut it in the enterprise software market, was pretty much also inevitable.

On April 24th, Red Hat, who had purchased JBoss the previous year, announced the pending acquisition of MetaMatrix to provide a data services layer to the JBoss application server and bolster the JBoss service-oriented architecture story. As the key paragraph from the press release explained it,
While SOA offers a cost-effective opportunity to modernize legacy infrastructures and provide true interoperability across applications and software components, it alone does not resolve data access challenges and the physical and semantic differences among disparate, physical data sources. MetaMatrix eliminates these challenges with a data services layer that decouples applications from their data sources and makes valuable data assets available as services in an SOA, freeing data from single application silos. It does this while simultaneously providing mechanisms for data consistency, security and compliance.

One of the Gartner analysts had a more pithy encapsulation of those "data access challenges" that MetaMatrix used to quote all the time:
A service-oriented architecture does not solve your data problems, it exposes them.

Red Hat clearly agrees and has invested in a proven data services solution by acquiring the technologies developed by MetaMatrix.

So there is the value proposition for Red Hat. Keep reading further down the press release, however, and we get to the following statement:
Following the close of the MetaMatrix acquisition, its data management software will be prepared for release under an open source license at JBoss.org.

I lead the MetaMatrix development team, now of JBoss, now of Red Hat. For me and my team of Java developers and testers, that sentence is the most exciting part of the announcement. We have been watching the open-source community from the outside for years. Like most software companies, we have been leveraging open-source tools and components to develop proprietary closed-source software. Now the plans are to push our code base out into the open and build communities around the key technologies.

During this process I will be blogging my development team's experiences as we move from proprietary to open-source. I already know some of the challenges ahead, like the sheer volume of code, the accessibility of the design, the interests of existing enterprise customers who may or may not care about open-source software, and the need to show a return on Red Hat's investment. I also know there are lots of challenges I don't know yet. But I am sold on going open. So blogging the experience as we go and asking for comments from the community along the way seems completely appropriate. Let's go.



pforhan said...

I for one can't wait for this. At the very least, I will remember how to write an eclipse plugin! Things are forgotton so quickly...

Anonymous said...

Is there an aggressive schedule for the open sourcing metamatrix? Also how do you see other EII companies leveraging or competing against this move?

Steve Jacobs said...

Hi anonymous!

I'll be blogging on the open-source project schedule once it is made public by Red Hat.

I see other EII companies very worried that their business model is about to be commoditized out from under them :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve.It would be interesting to see how pluggable and modular the design is of metamatrix source(guess you guys are refactoring it), for other EII companies to make it work within their products if they think the capabilities are right and missing in their products(eg: composite, ascential, informatica etc). An example would be connectors, many products have them, but can these be reused with your core integration engine. Or metadata, that could be understood and just plugged into metamatrix.

Anonymous said...

I have briefly looked at Metamatrix and can't wait to get my hands on it. Several industries are moving toward designer / developer roles and I see this as a step in that direction. The ablity to bridge database, file, xml will provide tremendous advantages in fast development of data exchange.

Morwenna said...

Great work.