Red Hat's JBoss buy may benefit Novell, other players

Red Hat's planned purchase of JBoss announced Monday may have benefits for Novell and other Linux distribution players, according to industry analysts.

Red Hat's planned purchase of open-source middleware vendor JBoss could result in Red Hat partners such as IBM beginning or expanding relationships with other Linux distribution players, notably Novell, analysts said Monday.

"Novell will probably call IBM and say, 'Let's do something,'" said James Governor, analyst with RedMonk. "Maybe Debian will benefit and maybe IBM can show them some love." Debian is another Linux distribution.

Governor sees IBM as the main party to be affected by the proposed Red Hat-JBoss tie-up announced on Monday. JBoss has made no secret of its antagonism for IBM's rival middleware WebSphere and the analyst thinks that attitude is likely to continue.

Dana Gardner, principal analyst with Interarbor Solutions expects IBM to re-evaluate its relationship with Red Hat as well as taking another look at its own approach to open-source software. Creating a rival open-source stack running on Novell's Suse Linux, IBM's WebSphere Application Server Community Edition and some Eclipse tools could act as a counterbalance strategy to Red Hat/JBoss, he said.

Michael Goulde, senior analyst with Forrester Research, questions whether IBM will label the Red Hat-JBoss deal as truly posing a competitive threat. As open-source software grows in appeal among its customers, IBM needs to be seen to be more and more receptive to the technology. If the deal encourages more users to adopt SOA (service-oriented architecture), they're going to need the kind of services and hardware which they could buy from IBM, he said.

Users should definitely benefit from the Red Hat purchase, according to Governor. "Customers are already using JBoss to whack IBM and BEA over pricing," he said. "If you're a Red Hat customer and a WebSphere customer, you'll probably have a very interesting conversation with your sales reps over the next couple of months."

As for the proposed deal itself, bringing JBoss and Red Hat together makes sense, according to Gardner. The move marks "something of a seismic shift in the open-source landscape," he said. The combined company will be able to offer a "soup-to-nuts open-source stack" encompassing virtualization through the operating system, middleware and tools and up into catering to the needs of enterprises looking to deploy SOAs, Gardner added.

Having such an open-source stack really starts to change the debate over open-source versus closed-source software, Gardner said. Instead of merely commoditizing areas already inhabited by proprietary software, open-source software will begin to play more of a role in developing new types of capabilities.

Once Red Hat has digested JBoss, the company may look for another acquisition to flesh out its open-source stack. That purchase could be a database, but analysts weren't sure how beneficial Red Hat would find owning a database since its stack will need to support a number of databases to be attractive to customers. Goulde expects the purchase would more likely be in the development tools space, along the lines of a company like Genuitec's with its MyEclipse Java software.

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