Hoping to keep the momentum it established last week in reporting its first-ever quarterly profits, Red Hat on Monday announced it is jumping into the open-source database business.
Appropriately called the Red Hat Database, the product is based around the PostgreSQL database, a transactional database with origins going back to the University of California at Berkeley in the mid-1980s. Red Hat will enhance that product with Red Hat Linux 7.1 and target it toward small- to midsize companies using a range of different workgroup-level applications.
Red Hat officials today said the product figures to bridge the gap in the Linux database market between large enterprise-class databases maintained by large IT departments and the very low-end databases not robust enough to handle a company's e-business.
"I think our entry into the database market can only expand the opportunity for our customers to build more flexible and maintainable systems around open-source technology," said James Neiser, Red Hat's chief marketing officer.
Some industry observers believe the product, coupled with the Linux operating system, may enhance the attractiveness of open-source solutions to corporate accounts.
"By packaging Linux as a database server, Red Hat would certainly make open-source software more attractive to organisations needing solutions," said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software research for IDC.
In a recent report Kusnetzky predicted that worldwide Linux-based relational database revenues would grow from $42 million in 2000 to $7.8 billion in 2005.
In the Linux database market, the new product will go up against the offering from Great Bridge, which is also built around PostgreSQL. Great Bridge chairman Frank Batten, who was an early investor in Red Hat and remains one of its largest investors, believes the products of both companies have the opportunity to cut into the market share of both Oracle and Microsoft, but mainly Oracle's.
"Our aim is to compete against Oracle, and I am betting that is Microsoft's goal too. Through the open-source model I think we can make this product better and better, and slowly eat away at [Oracle's] market share," Batten said. "Linux [databases] now look like the first Toyotas to come off the ship in the 1960s and not the Lexus of today. But they will over time," he said.
Besides PostgreSQL 7.1 and Red Hat Linux 7.1, the Red Hat Database includes the Red Hat Installer; improved locking capabilities to better ensure security; support for several languages including C, C++, Perl, Python, and Embedded SQL; and on-line backup for making data available and for backing it up.
The product will be available as an annual subscription with prices starting at US$199 per month, or for a one-time fee of $2,295. Bundled in the price is Web and telephone installation support, as well as Red Hat Network support and product updates.