Red Hat tries to move beyond OS level

Red Hat tries to move beyond OS level

Red Hat's planned acquisition of application server vendor, JBoss, is its third attempt to move up the open-source software stack in a big way. And it's hoping that this time proves to be the charm.

Red Hat has had limited success at getting users to adopt the directory server software it launched last June and a Java-based application server that it released in 2004. But some IT managers applauded its proposed marriage with JBoss.

"Of all the potential firms that could have acquired JBoss, we feel that Red Hat - being an open-source proponent - is a good match for us," Citi-Street CEO, Barry Strasnick, said.

Citi-Street, which was formerly was a big user of BEA Systems' WebLogic application server, started moving to the open-source JBoss technology two years ago. Now the company uses JBoss on top of Red Hat Linux to support all of its mission-critical applications.

CEO of JBoss systems integrator, Tripod Technologies, Badri Nittoor, said the acquisition would move Red Hat closer to having an enterprise-class stack of open-source software.

But it remained to be seen how well the cultures of the two companies would mesh, he said, since JBoss had more control over the source code for its software than Red Hat did over Linux.

Red Hat said it agreed to pay at least $US350 million in cash and stock for JBoss. The price tag could rise to $US420 million if JBoss met certain financial targets.

Red Hat unveiled its Directory Server software, bought from America Online's Netscape division, at its first user conference last spring.

But that market was dominated by Microsoft's Active Directory, followed by Novell's eDirectory software, principal analyst at The Radicati Group, Sara Radicati, said.

Red Hat also offers an application server based on the open-source Jonas technology developed by the ObjectWeb Consortium in France. Red Hat CEO, Matthew Szulik, said the company had made a significant investment in Jonas and expected that to continue.

But Ovum analyst, Laurent Lachal, said Red Hat has been disappointed by the adoption of Jonas and was unlikely to devote a lot of resources to that technology once it owned JBoss.

(James Niccolai and China Martens of the IDG News Service contributed to this story.)

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