Red Hat is leveraging its JBoss acquisition with its own middleware offering, putting it on par with commercial vendors BEA Systems, IBM, and Oracle. What's more, Red Hat is rapidly securing its already commanding lead as the largest enterprise Linux distributor, with 61% of the market for paid distributions last year.
Sixty percent of those distributions occur as indirect sales through third-party software developers and systems integrators that package Linux with their apps. Now those allies can build more sophisticated products, thanks to Red Hat's expanded middleware, which bundles JBoss Java Application Server and JBoss Hibernate object/relational mapping software with Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Hibernate makes it easier for Java and Microsoft .Net developers to build apps with components that use databases.
"JBoss was always the most agnostic, the most business-minded" of the open source middleware projects, says Rob Enderle, principal of the Enderle Group. "Working in both the Java and Microsoft environments is one of its most powerful aspects." The JBoss Java Application Server has been the preferred non-IBM middleware, Enderle adds.
For the first time, Red Hat is selling tech support for its JBoss-Enterprise Linux bundle, called the Red Hat Application Stack. The annual entry-level subscription, which includes support, is $1,999; business-hours support is $5,499 for a four-way server; and premium support is $8,499 per four-way server.
Red Hat's acquisition represents a retrenchment. The company at one time threw its support behind a JBoss rival, the Jonas application server being developed by French consortium ObjectWeb. But Jonas gained no traction in North America, as JBoss grabbed enterprise developers looking for a reliable, no-cost application server with which to build prototypes.
JBoss was then deployed with those prototypes as they became production systems, moving JBoss inside the data center alongside IBM WebSphere and BEA's WebLogic application servers. The JBoss-Red Hat combination will be in more direct competition with these commercial systems.
JBoss faces future competition from Geronimo, an IBM-backed Apache Software Foundation application server project. But Geronimo is in its 1.1 release and still is catching up to JBoss when it comes to moving into production. IBM would rather see open source converts use its Gluecode stack for free. IBM then retains the prospect of converting a rapidly growing business from Gluecode middleware to its commercial WebSphere stack.
LogicBlaze, another Geronimo backer, has assembled its own open source middleware stack, Fuse 1.2. Also, an open source suite is emerging from WSO2, a Sri Lankan company of Apache project contributors.
Meanwhile, Novell, Red Hat's main business Linux rival, has seen its fortunes take a turn for the worse. The company last week received a delisting notice from Nasdaq and a default notice for a $600 million business loan because of a delay in filing its quarterly earnings report.
With all this activity around middleware, it's no wonder Red Hat paid $350 million for JBoss. Since the acquisition was completed in June, Red Hat has moved quickly to get JBoss software into its product line. "On the IT side, it simplified everything if all the pieces are working together," says Todd Barr, Red Hat's director of marketing.
And the JBoss and Hibernate additions are just a start. Red Hat has revealed it's providing commercial support for MySQL and PostgreSQL with Enterprise Linux. And few doubt it will turn to the rest of the JBoss product line, which includes a portal server, a rules engine, and, later this year, its own Web server, to expand its middleware lineup further. "Red Hat is the leading contender to provide a comprehensive open source stack," says Michael Goulde, a Forrester Research analyst. "This is a first step."