JBoss Makes Inroads at WorldCom

While Linux grabs the headlines, other open source applications are steadily gaining ground in corporate data centers.

At telcom giant WorldCom, for example, the open source application server JBoss has recently replaced a commercial app server for a key network management application.

The application, written mostly in Java, helps WorldCom’s thousand-plus network engineers monitor their network, says Jerry Shifrin, a senior engineer in WorldCom’s network management group. Those are the folks responsible for handling any problems that may arise with WorldCom’s giant network, which stretches more than 95,000 miles long, and carries a significant amount of the world’s Internet traffic.

The application ran for several years on a commercial application server – Shifrin won’t say which one — but over time, says Shifrin, “we grew increasingly dissatisfied with our commercial vendor, for lots of reasons, including support, product quality and license restrictions.”

So about a year ago, Shifrin’s group began experimenting with JBoss, porting its application to JBoss, and running tests for performance, stability and scalability. “We were pretty satisfied with the results,” says Shifrin.

They weren’t the only ones who had to be convinced, however. WorldCom management had questions about JBoss. “They wanted to know about security and support, and the risks of working with an open source product,” Shifrin recalls.

JBoss is newer than [open source products] Apache or Tomcat, says Shifrin, but it has a very good reputation within the open source community, and there are a lot of people using it. “We were able to establish that the risks were manageable, and if, for whatever reason, people stopped maintaining it, we could either maintain it ourselves, or migrate to another product.”

With management’s approval, JBoss was put into production last December, running on a large Unix server. So far, says Shifrin, “it’s been rock solid, and I don’t think our users are aware that anything has changed.”

One change that Shifrin appreciates — as much or more than the fact that JBoss is available at no cost — is the lack of licensing headaches. “If we wanted to move from a four-processor to an eight-processor machine with the commercial app server,” he says, “we had to go through a time consuming WorldCom procurement cycle to upgrade the license. From my point of view, what’s important is not that the software is free, it’s that we’re free to use it as we like.”

That has allowed Shifrin’s team to set up JBoss installations at WorldCom data centers in several locations around the country.

While Shifrin is careful to point out that his group’s decision is not part of any corporate-wide decision to use JBoss, several other groups within WorldCom have begun to experiment with JBoss as well.