Sunday, August 19, 2012

JBoss Recollections Part 3 - The Tech Team

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 before reading this, or you may get lost and confused.  Part 3 involves my memories of the Technical Team, which was the heart and soul of JBoss.  The foundation that made everything possible.  BTW, in this article, it is worth clicking on the links - there are some historical and hysterical ones...

The chart at the right is from June, 2004.  As mentioned earlier, I did not start working with JBoss until September, 2002.  I won't go into all the folks on the right, and I'll add a few.

The one important person involved with the JBoss technology that I never met was Rickard Oberg.  Many give him credit for the Microkernel architecture and building much of the early versions of JBoss.  He left before I got there.  I was never clear on what happened, but my impression is that both he and Marc had strong opinions and that finally led to his departure.  I do know that Marc always talked well about him.  Marc offered him some of the Economic Interest Units in the Spring/Summer of 2003 even though he was no longer doing work on the project and there was a deep rift.  Rickard refused them, and I am not sure he is really the kind to regret the amount of money he would have made if he had simply signed the document.  Rickard often criticized JBoss in later years - just google rickard oberg jboss.  As typical with many things JBoss, a lot of emotion.  As Rickard left, the guys who became the "real" core became increasingly involved:

Scott Stark.  I mentioned him in Part 1.  Marc viewed Scott as his real partner.  The above chart has Scott at the top, but every developer at JBoss would have put him there by his shear force of contributions and leadership by example.  Scott lived out in Washington and would work crazy hours.  The only time he was not working was if there was fresh powder on the ski slopes he lived next to.  Scott made sure that JBoss builds actually worked for users.  While Rickard may get the credit for the Microkernel, Scott gets the credit for making the thing work - and work well.

Sacha Labourey.  Sacha is not shown in this chart because he was running JBoss Europe by this point.  His initial contribution to JBoss was writing the Clustering.  This was the beginning of bringing JBoss from just a developer tool to being used for real project deployments.  He and Marc built a very strong relationship.  Sacha headed up the creation of the European operation, including sales and marketing.  But he always had a hand on the technology.  He earned such respect and recruited people so well about 15 of the world's best middleware developers wound up moving to Neuchatel, Switzerland where Sacha lives.  Sacha became the CTO when JBoss was acquired by Red Hat and can be credited with holding the technical team together thru a pretty messy acquisition.  Sacha is now the founder and CEO of CloudBees, where I get to work with him still (lucky me!).

Bill Burke.  Bill was probably best known for implementing EJB in JBoss.  That is a bit of an understatement as he had a wide influence across a lot of things at JBoss and along with Scott was one of the key guys that made sure things actually worked.  It is also a bit unfair as EJB has taken a few shots from later OR mapping like Hibernate, and Rod Johnson's Spring pitch.  Bill was not wedded to the worst of EJB, but the best of it.  I think he was a pretty big part of getting Gavin to come to JBoss as an example.  As a Patriots fan from Boston, the only thing that bothered him more than a loss to the Giants was when Spring was trying to take credit for Hibernate ;-)

Adrian Brock.  I first got introduced to Adrian via email from Marc saying he headed up Support.  I later learned that Adrian had started answering questions on the forums.  He is one of those rare, brilliant developers who can read code like speed readers go thru a book and understand and remember everything.  He had a RTFM attitude (click on his blog link above to get an idea) on the forums, but if the question was valid, there was not a better person to help find the answer or to create a new feature.  Here is a great example of how Marc got people like Adrian involved in the project.

Bela Ban.  I remember riding in a taxi on 101 near the SFO airport with Marc while he was on his cell phone trying to convince Bela Ban to join JBoss (maybe early 2003).  I didn't know Bela then other than he was the brilliant developer behind JGroups.  I think he was evaluating whether to join Google or JBoss or some other company that I forget.  I've had a number of great runs over the years with Bela - once running from the Marriott in San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.  He had left his car there and done the reverse run the day before.  He has also done the Jungfrau Marathon. And he is still going strong on JGroups - I just saw him at JBoss World a couple of months ago.

Gavin King.  Well, my favorite Gavin King story is when he came to give a talk at Villanova for a JUG.  My 70+ year old non-programmer father happened to be in town and had recently read Java for Dummies.  I introduced him to Gavin describing how he had changed how Java developers work with databases.  My father misunderstood his name and then called him "Kevin" every other sentence as he questioned him about everything he had read in the Dummies book for the next 10 minutes.  And I did not interfere - it was far too funny.  Anyway, Gavin is the creator of Hibernate as well as a number of other technologies.  It is safe to say that neither JBoss or Spring would have been anywhere near as successful as they were had Gavin not done Hibernate.  He and Marc had a love-hate relationship the entire time.  Thank God for Ben Sabrin, peace keeper extraordinaire...

There are so many great people on this chart.  Remy Maucherat  was a key committer to Tomcat for years, and a very important part of JBoss.  Andy Oliver became a very important face for JBoss to many customers over the years.  He now had his own business continuing on a path he successfully pioneered at JBoss.  Julien Viet and Roy Russo created JBoss Portal with just two people.  Tom Elrod and Roy went on to found Loopfuse several years ago.  This has gotten long enough - so apologies to all the other fantastic contributors!

The amazing thing about the team was how distributed, yet how tight it was.  I was reminded that the quality of the developer far outweighed any management or development technique.  Forget Agile - just get developers like this crew and you will have a successful project.

If you want to read a good article about the early days of JBoss development and some of the key guys - take a look at http://sourceforge.net/potm/potm-2003-04.php.

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