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12/6/2005
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Red Hat To Certify, Support Others' Open-Source Software

Service and support for three bundles--including server software, database, development tools, and other wares meant for different types of Web sites--will be ready early next year.

Red Hat will launch certification and support services for leading open-source LAMP and Java stacks beginning in the first quarter of 2006.

Such service offerings were pioneered by innovative startups such as SpikeSource and SourceLabs.

During the first calendar quarter of 2006, Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat will begin providing three service offerings for the core LAMP Web application stack, as well as for Java and enterprise Java open-source middleware stacks.

Red Hat's Web Application Stack is for simple Web sites and applications and includes support for the popular LAMP components, including the Apache HTTP Server, MySQL database, PHP scripting language and PostgreSQL database, Red Hat said.

The second offering, the Java Web Application Stack, includes certification and production support for LAMP and PostgreSQL/MySQL as well as the Apache Tomcat Servlet and JSP container. Support will also be available for key Java libraries and tools such as Apache Struts, Apache Axis, Spring, Hibernate, Lucene, Ant, Junit, Jython, Log4J and key XML libraries.

Finally, the Enterprise Java Stack includes support for all of the above plus support for the Java application server based on ObjectWeb's J2EE-certified JOnAS project. That is the core of the Red Hat Application Server.

Red Hat said the services will allow corporate developers to focus on application development rather than configuring the underlying platform.

The services will compete against those offered by independent service firms. Yet some service firms prefer to view it more an endorsement of their business model and the rise of open-source middleware stacks than direct competition.

Red Hat has pushed its own database and middleware offerings but is leaning more toward open-source stacks, which are fast becoming de facto standards in the open-source world, namely the Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP/Perl middleware and tools offerings.

The leading Linux vendor has offered most of these open-source components as part of its product subscriptions but will now "leverage" the certification and support services capabilities it developed for the Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution to these middleware stacks, one Red Hat services executive said.

Aaron Darcy, director of Red Hat's global strategic services, said customers want these services from top Linux vendors that are well-established. "We're seeing a number of enterprise customers start to take open-source development seriously, and they want a trusted open-source provider to provide a support mechanism for them to go to," said Darcy. "In general, we've seen a number of companies providing this capability but not necessarily the fulll range of high-quality services we're offering, backed by the Red Hat brand."

Kim Polese, CEO of SpikeSource, characterized the announcement as an endorsement of open-source middleware and her firm's business model.

"We applaud Red Hat. It makes a lot of sense for them to extend beyond their own platform and embrace key components, supporting LAMP stacks based on RHEL," Polese said in an e-mail response to CRN. "SpikeSource offers the broadest support for open source deployed across all leading platforms, including both LAMP and Java-based stacks.”

"Red Hat joins an increasingly crowded field of platform vendors, including Hewlett-Packard, Novell, IBM and other specialists and new firms offering these services," said George Weiss, vice president at Gartner. But Red Hat may run into some red flags if it is trying to move beyond its installed base of customers.

"It applies to Red Hat distributions only," said Weiss. "It will attract those who want Red Hat as their primary service and support vendor. In the data center, however, it may not be that attractive for exclusive open-source software stacks vs. hybrid commercial and open-source software stacks."

One open-source consultant said there is plenty of room for competition and that independent service firms will have an edge because Red Hat will certify and support an open-source application server that has less momentum than JBoss.

"RHEL has shipped with a LAMP stack for a while so I'm not really sure how this changes things. The thing that really seems to be missing here is support for JBoss' J2EE server, which is far more popular than JOnAS. However, it's good to see that they are finally supporting some of the more popular Java libraries," said Chris Maresca, senior partner at the Olliance Group, Palo Alto, Calif. "Despite all this, companies such as OpenLogic and SpikeSource still have a key role to play as this announcement does not address stack support in heterogenous enviroments or on multiple Linux distributions."

Mark de Visser, formerly vice president of marketing at Red Hat who is now chief marketing officer at Zend, said it's good news for ISVs developing on top of open-source projects. "It's a further indication that open-source software stacks are being broadly deployed in the enterprise. Zend Platform adds robustness and scalability to PHP deployments--the 'P' in the Red Hat LAMPstack--so the plan by Red Hat to further accelerate PHP distribution helps grow the market for our solution.”

"Red Hat has realized that our business model creates a huge opportunity, and there's plenty to go around," said Cornelius Willis, a top executive at SourceLabs. "Service and support for database and middleware is a $12 billion business and growing. For the first time, open-source breaks that market open to free competition."

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