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Users gain from Red Hat's JBoss buy

Linux giant Red Hat bought JBoss to the tune of $350 million this week bringing middleware and an operating system under one roof.

"Today is the beginning," JBoss founder and CEO Marc Fleury wrote on his "Enter the JBoss Matrix" blog after signing the $350 million deal that sold his company to Red Hat Inc. "JBoss today is stepping up to a bigger challenge by merging with Red Hat."

Customers could be stepping into a new arena as well should they choose to adopt an application stack from a combined Red Hat/JBoss entity -- an arena with better tracking between products.

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Red Hat is the leading provider of commercial Linux and also sells a Linux-based application server. JBoss, which makes an open source application server and middleware components for distributed computing, had already modeled its business after the Red Hat subscription model that offers free software and charges for support services.

First and foremost, the JBoss acquisition is a move that will help solidify Red Hat's position as a leading open source enterprise platform, said Scott Donahue, a vice president with Tier 1 Research (a division of The 451 Group, based in Boston).

And since Red Hat and JBoss were already working together in traditionally independent markets -- middleware and operating systems -- Donahue said development would remain independent. There will be a fair amount of autonomy as JBoss will likely be allowed to continue to work with competitors like Novell Inc.

Donahue said the transaction gives Red Hat better competitive positioning against Novell, as Red Hat can now make the case to users that it offers a more complete open source portfolio.

If users then determine that the scale and manageability of this stack meets their needs, it could put considerable pressure on other infrastructure vendors' pricing models as they sell an application.

On the other hand, the merger presents an interesting scenario for IBM and customers of its WebSphere products, which compete with JBoss. "This contention directly benefits Novell, as IBM will be forced to move more rapidly to embrace Novell and perhaps even acquire the company," Donahue said.

A Microsoft connection debunked

The acquisition is also an important indicator of how businesses recognize that end users require better cooperation among products. It enables their infrastructures to perform better and allows for easier management, said consultant and author Bernard Golden, CEO at Navica Inc. in San Carlos, Calif.

"Having open source or proprietary companies that refuse to work with one another from a sense of purity is a real disservice to end users," Golden said.

Golden dismissed concerns that a preexisting partnership, which JBoss and Microsoft entered into last September, would result in code-sharing headaches between Redmond and Red Hat. "While no details about the [JBoss/Microsoft] technical integration have been made public, I wouldn't think the agreement addressed including Microsoft code within the JBoss product.

Golden said that the agreement would more likely be a sharing of information to see how installation, configuration and manageability of JBoss could be made easier on the Windows platform.

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