Last year at this time Red Hat launched its Red Hat Exchange (RHX) initiative. The idea in the beginning was to offer a marketplace for third party open source solutions that Red Hat would sell directly from the RHX site. At the time of its launch I thought it was a good idea and I still do. In fact I strongly believe that for Red Hat to evolve to the next stage of great companies it is essential that RHX succeed.
However Red Hat has had some difficulty with RHX over the past year. This week, Matt Mattox wrote on the Red Hat blog:
Rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated. RHX is different
now. The team is smaller and the target market is different; but,
fundamentally, RHX is smarter.
RHX is now focused on helping the open source ecosystem grow
sustainable businesses by implementing a truly community-leveraged
model. We want to help our ecosystem partners transform communities of
users and developers into their own source of competitive advantage.
Fundamentally RHX is all about growing the Red Hat channel. It’s about transforming Red Hat from just a vendor that does solid support and technical service to being a preferred value added solution vendor for Open Source as a whole.
A Linux distribution by its very nature – distributes software– as such Red Hat has always been a distributor of other people’s software. The promise of RHX was more – providing an outlet for support and commercial viability. If the new reality of RHX has wavered from that initial promise that would be a very bad thing for Red Hat.
If RHX is to succeed and transform Red Hat from just being about Linux and JBoss – to being The Open Source Vendor for all things Open Source – that surely would be a vehicle towards increased revenue and profit.
Think about it. Instead of a user cobbling together stuff from multiple sources – or going to IBM or HP they’d just go to Red Hat. How much of Red Hat’s business is a result of the upstream channel it participates in with IBM and HP?
Flip that model around and extend that to the broader open source community with Red Hat at the head. Red Hat is successful because of its leadership role. If it fails to take a leadership role in expanding the profitability of the open source revenue pie for all – someone else will take the lead (Novell has MarketStart and hey Shuttleworth is an aggressive guy with Ubuntu).
Red Hat without the leadership position would not survive in the same way it does today. It just wouldn’t have the influence. In open source, influence is critical to survival.
So whatever RHX evolves into, for Red Hat’s sake I hope that it’s still at least part of the original promise that RHX offered. Building a channel is no easy task and takes years of effort and dedication. It would be a shame if the journey that Red Hat started on last year did not reach its full potential.