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As a consultant, I worked at many different software shops, and grew tired of seeing people reimplement the same code over and over again. I knew there had to be a faster and better way to write business applications than reimplementing security frameworks and remoting frameworks for every project. Code reuse was the whole appeal of OO programming, right?

I started working with WebSphere in 2001—which led me to learn more about the J2EE specification. I was fascinated by the idea that my knowledge of the standard was portable; I could go to different companies that used J2EE application servers, and focus on learning and programming business code rather than tinkering with mediocre, homemade frameworks that would occupy my time and give me little portable knowledge, which is of paramount importance as a consultant.

I wanted to experiment with WebSphere at home but found the lack of project and code transparency frustrating. I came across JBoss and spent many hours experimenting and learning about EJBs, JNDI, security, and class loading. Although I’d used open source frameworks, I had never taken advantage of pouring through the forums and code to learn and discuss the framework. I had taken advantage of the free price of open source, but not the freedom to distribute, examine, improve, and modify the code. I finally started understanding the benefits of this model.

I started working with JBoss on a few projects in 2002 and wrote a couple JBoss-related articles in 2004. Then, toward the end of 2005, two interesting things happened at around the same time. First, the consulting and training company that I was working for became a JBoss Partner (before the Red Hat acquisition) and asked me to take ownership of the partnership and to start teaching JBoss courses. Second, I got a call from an Acquisitions Editor (the person who finds writers for the publisher) at Manning asking if I had any leads on somebody who would be interested in writing a book. She had run across my JBoss articles and thought I might be a good person to ask. I thought that writing a book would be as easy as writing a series of technical articles, so I offered to write the book myself. And after a little bit of convincing, I got the job.

At that point, I had to decide what the book would cover and who it would target. Although I appreciated that the JBoss AS code and documentation was open, having read through much of the JBoss AS documentation and books, I just wasn’t satisfied with the style, quality, and expected audience of the material. Most of the documentation seemed overly esoteric and (in my opinion) geared more toward developers of the application server itself, not necessarily toward the users. But I also didn’t want to write another book on how to develop Java EE applications. Plenty of books and articles had already done that in an application server–agnostic fashion. I saw little benefit in writing another book on the specification with some bits and pieces of JBoss AS mixed in. I decided that the book should be geared toward developers and administrators who want to learn how to configure the application server.

After knowing whom the book was geared toward, I had to decide what version of the software to cover. When I started, JBoss AS 4 was widely deployed; but, because JBoss AS 5 was originally supposed to be released in 2006, I opted to cover JBoss AS 5 so that the book wouldn’t be outdated as soon as it was published.

Deciding whom the book would be geared toward and what version I wanted to cover was relatively easy. Writing the book was a whole different game! I didn’t appreciate the myriad facets of an application server I’d have to understand in order to write a comprehensive book. An application server is like a universe, and few people are masters of more than a few parts of that universe. Although I had a good understanding of many parts of JBoss, I quickly realized that I had to learn a lot more. Another challenge was that I was covering JBoss AS 5, which was actively being developed. Every time I thought I had something figured out, it changed. I ended up spending an enormous amount of time trying to work around bugs in beta releases and trying to keep up with design discussions on the developers’ forums.

In July of 2006, I realized I was in way over my head. I still thought that the JBoss AS 5 release was around the corner, so I told Manning that I wanted to bring somebody in to help me get the book out on time. I called everybody I knew and I scoured through the JBoss forums looking for people. I had a few leads, but I was most impressed with Peter Johnson. I found him on the forums, answering question after question. He provided detailed explanations, gave plenty of references and background, and used eloquent language.

After talking to Peter, I realized that he had significant experience with JBoss AS. He works for Unisys, which has been a JBoss Partner since JBoss AS 3.2.3 came out, and was technical lead for the team that evaluated JBoss AS for its enterprise readiness. The lack of a decent administrative interface to JBoss AS was one of his concerns, which caused him to lead a team that developed an administration console which was open-sourced by Unisys and made available for JBoss AS versions 2.2.7 through 4.2.3. He and a few of his coworkers also worked with the JBoss admin console team on a proposed admin console that was to come out with JBoss AS 5, but was later dropped in favor of Embedded Jopr.

Unisys, as a good corporate citizen in the open source community—not just taking but also giving back—allowed Peter and his coworkers to participate in various ways, such as providing patches to improve performance of JBoss AS and PostgreSQL. Having been a teacher in a former life, Peter knew that the best way to learn a new topic is to try to explain it to others. He hung out in the forums, seeing what kinds of questions people asked, trying out what he thought were the solutions, and posting answers when he felt he could offer help or insight. By participating in the forums, he could kill two birds with one stone: give back to the open source community and gain a deeper understanding of JBoss AS.

Peter was excited to join the project, and we seemed to agree on almost everything. We shared the same vision for the audience and direction of the book, and he dove right into writing, pushing out chapter after chapter, and providing me with great feedback on what I had already written.

With my background teaching JBoss courses and Peter’s fervent dedication to the online forums, we had experience fielding many common questions. We decided to focus the book on the most common things that new and intermediate users of JBoss AS try to configure. For the most part, each chapter provides you first with background information and then with specifics on configuring common things for the part of the application server covered by the chapter.

As for JBoss AS 5, the release date kept getting pushed back. This was expected because the application server underwent several major architectural and infrastructural changes. As I write this preface in December of 2008, the GA release of JBoss AS 5 has just been released. We’re expecting a final release in January 2009, which should coincide with the U.S. print version of this book. Peter and I have been working long and hard on this project, and we hope that you find that it answers most of your basic questions and gives you enough background to figure out the ones that it doesn’t.


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