In April of 2006, Red Hat acquired open-source J2EE application server vendor JBoss for US$420 million. According to previous reports, Oracle was interested in buying JBoss earlier that year for more money, but Red Hat beat them to the punch. A year later, what does the new Red Hat landscape look like for Linux and JBoss customers?
Customers seem to like the acquisition, since many Red Hat customers were already JBoss users and can consolidate their vendor base with ease. Red Hat now offers a single subscription product, Red Hat Application Stack, that includes JBoss and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, along with the Apache Web server, the PHP and Perl languages, and the open-source databases MySQL and PostgreSQL.
"When we ventured on the path of building a Sales Workstyle Management solution a few years ago, we decided to build the solution using open-source technologies," says Anupam Singh, CTO for Landslide.com, a provider of a sales force software solution in Pittsburgh. "We chose Red Hat over other Linux distributions for time to market and efficiency and also their close relationship with the hardware we are using. We chose JBoss as it also bundled other complementary technologies while keeping our architecture and solution vendor neutral."
Like Landslide, others had independently chosen JBoss before the acquisition. "The decision to use JBoss was made independently of the decision to use Red Hat Linux," says Rob DiMarco, vice president of software for Health Care Management Systems (HMS) a revenue enhancement and recovery services provider to government healthcare programs and others in the healthcare industry. The 7-year-old firm switched completely to Red Hat in 2004 for the stability and reliability of Red Hat's Enterprise product line and the support from Oracle and other vendors for the platform.
As the acquired company integrates into Red Hat's offering, customers are beginning to see the fruits of the deal. "Until JBoss was acquired, they [Red Hat] couldn't quite give you end-to-end support. Now with their Linux support and this application server, they have a new profit centre and a one-stop vendor for both explains John Engate, CTO for Rackspace, a leading managed hosting provider based in San Antonio, who uses both Red Hat Linux and JBoss . Rackspace, like many Red Hat customers, not only uses JBoss, but also services customers who use it.
"As a service provider, our goal is always to provide customers with the products and services they are asking for the most," Engate explains. "In this case, we chose Red Hat primarily because it is the most widely used Linux distribution available. Red Hat's Linux offering is, more or less, the standard for Linux in the enterprise. JBoss was the best alternative to the much more expensive J2EE application server products like BEA Weblogic and IBM WebSphere. Many of our customers were asking us for JBoss support."
"We believe that the acquisition of Red Hat is advantageous," Engate adds. "Red Hat has been an excellent partner for us, and we believe that their experience in developing a productized Linux offering will help them to improve the current offering from JBoss. With Red Hat bringing JBoss into the fold, it will make it that much easier for Rackspace to support its customers on the JBoss platform. A single vendor is easier to work with than two or more, and with more of the stack under Red Hat's support umbrella, it should help with support escalations with less potential for finger pointing between vendors.
The idea of a single vendor is not just appealing to Rackspace, but many others as well. HMS found the vendor standardization to be quite attractive to their already steady business with Red Hat's Linux. "Any time we can standardize to a single vendor, it can simplify our management and procurement," DiMarco says. "Going forward, I think the JBoss acquisition will have advantages for our use of Red Hat. One of the biggest advances I hope for is the JBoss Application Server release process will model closely the Red Hat Enterprise Linux release process with less frequent, but more stable, releases."
"For our business, I think there are huge synergies here," Landslide.com's Singh says. "Landslide is a hosted/[software as a service] solution. We need the hardware, [operating system], server and application technologies to work 24x7 and our solution [to] be always available. When we do run into issues, we rely on the vendor experts. When you build very large-scale solutions like ours, it becomes critical that the hardware and technologies play nice. With this acquisition, we have one less variable to worry about in such instances."