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Red Hat-JBoss Union Draws Mixed Reaction From Channel

The marriage of Red Hat and JBoss will likely drive more revenue for the open-source channel but could complicate business for others, according to solution providers.

Last week's announcement that the Raleigh, N.C.-based Linux software leader and the Atlanta-based middleware star plan to unite at the end of May got mixed reviews in the channel.

Some partners said the move paves the way for a brand-name, end-to-end, open-source stack that can compete directly against Microsoft's integrated platform and Sun Microsystems' enterprise system.

In addition, creating an open-source powerhouse will lay to rest corporate resistance to doing business with JBoss, a small, independent firm, partners added.

"The Red Hat/JBoss combination elevates the enterprise confidence level and makes it that much better for our clients to accept and for us to deliver solid solutions," said Ed Pimentel, CEO of AgileCO, Alpharetta, Ga.

"This should make life easier for the channel over time, as Red Hat and JBoss assemble a comprehensive, synchronized package for VARs and integrators of all sizes," said Michael Goulde, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

The deal mirrors the wave of consolidation in the proprietary software applications market but also reflects the uniqueand sometimes risky dynamics of co-opetition for open-source ISVs and their partners.

Such an abrupt vendor realignment as the Red Hat/JBoss deal caught ISV partners such as IBM, BEA Systems, Oracle, Novell and Microsoft off guard last week. And it could put those ISVs' partnerssome of which sell solutions such as IBM WebSphere on Red Hat Linux, JBoss on Novell's SUSE Linux and JBoss on Windowsin the crossfire.

It's unclear how the deal will play out in the field. It could benefit IBM's hardware and IBM Global Services units but will likely cause problems for IBM's WebSphere group and for Novell, which competes against Red Hat and partners closely with JBoss, observers point out. One analyst suggested that it may push IBM and Novell closer togetherand potentially merge.

The deal also may force Microsoftwhich has a partnership with JBossto retreat. It is unclear, for example, what level of technical support Red Hat will offer JBoss' Windows customers, which represent 50 percent of JBoss' entire installed base.

"That's going to be an interesting question and a challenge for Red Hat to figure out," said Stephen Walli, a vice president at open-source consulting firm Optaros, Cambridge, Mass. "It's a sizable number of customers for Red Hat to walk away from but if Red Hat wants to turn those customers into Red Hat Linux customers, it could be good for business." Partners that support the deal say the resulting out-of-the-box integration and efficiencies between the open-source operating system and middleware will benefit all parties.

"IBM and Red Hat have an excellent business relationship and by purchasing JBoss, they now have the ability to co-develop solutions that will work out for both companies," said Frank Basanta, director of technology at Systems Solutions, New York.

"Hopefully, the combination will expand the opportunities all around," said Tom Janofsky, J2EE architect at JBoss partner Tripod Technologies, Cherry Hill, N.J. "JBoss' stack will get Red Hat in accounts that they weren't in before, and Red Hat's accounts will probably get JBoss in front of LAMP accounts and other app servers running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux."

Others predict Red Hat may acquire an open-source database next. One former Microsoft channel-chief-turned-open-source-venture-capitalist predicted consolidation in the open-source industry will continue.

"These open-source players have tons of customers but not nearly enough revenue to keep them as independent players, or to be public," said Sam Jadallah, general partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures.

But that could backfire. "Red Hat has always said they wanted to be the Microsoft of Linux, and this puts them one step closer to being able to deliver that complete, end-to-end platform," said Chris Maresca, a partner at Olliance Consulting, based in Palo Alto, Calif.

"However, this type of platform dominance is exactly why Linux and open source gained such huge momentum in the IT industry, so there might be a general backlash if Red Hat manages to establish platform dominance," he added.

"End users should probably hedge their bets by using integrated application stacks like OpenLogic as a way to retain vendor independence," said Maresca.

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