Red Hat Launches Linux Runtime For Appliances


Business model aimed at embedded system partners


Red Hat is taking a second stab at the embedded systems market.

On Wednesday, the leading Linux software company announced a new embedded partner program. It will center on a run-time edition of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 that will enable hardware and software partners to develop single-function appliances and provide support for their customer. The Red Hat Runtime Partner Program, for instance, allows appliance vendors, software makers and integrated solutions providers to license the company's Linux distribution for use in their appliance and support their own customers.

Mike Evans, vice president of partner development at Red Hat, said the company came up with the new business model designed to grow its reach beyond enterprise customers and into the appliance space. The program will address firewall servers, storage servers and network servers but not handheld devices, he said.

As part of that, Red Hat will require partners to pay a per-device fee and partner support fees.

"We're targeting a wide segment of the technology market and set of solutions that range from appliances and single function systems like security box or firewall or medical system or network or storage box in telecom and point of sale solutions," Evans said.

The Raleigh, NC company has focused primarily on the enterprise IT side of the market. It sold a homegrown product called Red Hat Embedded several years ago but dropped after it failed to get customer adoption, Evans said.

Last February, Red Hat announced a partnership with Wind River, a leading vendor whose Workbench development tool and VXworks real-time operating system once dominated in the embedded operating system market.

Neither Red Hat nor Wind River developed any technology for the run-time edition, which is a new business model and not a separate version of the Linux software for businesses.

Still, Red Hat will tap into Wind River's sizable installed base, Evans said , noting that the two will be co-operating in sales and marketing.

"There is cooperation in terms of cross selling our solutions in the field," Evans said "They don't compete with us." Wind River continues to provide its embedded OS to customers who want proprietary software, he added. Wind River's development tools are now available on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.

Several Linux companies compete against Windows XP Embedded, SCO Unix and other proprietary operating systems in the embedded systems market.

One Linux service provider wondered if it will have impact since many firewall and appliance vendors such as Netilla Networks use Linux in their current offerings.
"I do see value in it but I'm not clear where the money is in that business model," said Alex Zaltsman, managing director of Exigent, a solution provider in Morristown, NJ. "These same vendors have been doing that for years without Red Hat."