Novell and JBoss have tightened their relationship. Novell now plans to co-develop the JBoss Enterprise Middleware Suite (JEMS) of open-source software and to ship a number of the suite's components in the next major release of its exteNd application suite, expected in 2006.

Novell had already been cosying up to Atlanta-based JBoss. Last year it began bundling the JBoss application server with its Suse Linux Enterprise Server operating system. Novell had also announced plans to make JBoss the default application server in the exteNd suite.

Novell said it now plans to include a number of other JEMS components in exteNd, including the JBoss portal server, the jBPM (Java business process management) workflow engine, the JBoss enterprise service bus, the Hibernate query software, the JGroups communications software and an open source implementation of JMX (Java Management Extensions).

JBoss is best known as the company behind the JBoss application server, but it also supports JEMS as a collection of open source middleware. Not all JEMS components are built by JBoss engineers.

Novell engineers will begin contributing source code to a number of JEMS projects, beginning with JBoss Portal Server 2.0. "We have a fairly robust portlet library, with 70 portlets that we're going to be contributing," said David Litwack, senior vice president and general manager of Novell's Secure iServices group. Portlets are small, reusable software components that are widely used in conjunction with portal servers to provide an interface to web-based e-commerce and ERP software.

Following the release of the Portal Server code, Novell also plans to contribute two implementations of web services standards to JEMS software, Litwack said. They will be Novell's implementation of the WSRP (Web Services for Remote Portlets) standard as well as the company's SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) server, he said.

ExteNd is based on software Novell acquired in its 2002 purchase of SilverStream Software. To date, Novell has had difficulty in convincing developers to write applications to the exteNd platform, according to Ronald Schmelzer, a senior analyst with ZapThink. "All this SilverStream stuff was a new market for them, and I don't think they ever captured enough mindshare to get people to build applications on top of exteNd," he said.

The fact that Novell is relying more on JBoss may not bode well for the long-term viability of the SilverStream code, he said. "I think over time they're going to let it go quietly, or maybe they'll take more of the (intellectual property) and contribute it back to open source," he said.

Litwack said that Novell was not backing away from its SilverStream investment but simply replacing software components that had become commoditised and offering a higher level of support for popular open-source software.

"What this is about is moving the open source ... stack into the enterprise," he said. "Now, with the JEMS relationship, you can get support across the entire stack from a global company."

Litwack also offered a revised ship date for the next major release of exteNd. Earlier, Novell officials had said that the new release, which is expected to be labelled version 6.0, would ship by the end of 2005. Yesterday, Litwack said it would be available in "about a year."