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Analysis: Red Hat-JBoss Union Draws Mixed Reaction From Partners

Some partners say 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.

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

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 unique—and 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’ partners—some of which sell solutions such as IBM WebSphere on Red Hat Linux, JBoss on Novell’s SUSE Linux and JBoss on Windows—in 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 together—and potentially merge.

The deal also may force Microsoft—which has a partnership with JBoss—to 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.”

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