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Red Hat Looks to Blend Java With Linux

Red Hat, the leading seller of Linux distributions, has partnered with BEA Systems, the supplier of the leading application server on the market, to add a Java Virtual Machine to the enterprise-version of its open-source operating system.

BEA announced it will certify Red Hat's Advanced Server enterprise platform with the WebLogic framework -- a scalable software infrastructure that includes BEA's market-leading WebLogic application server, which deploys mission-critical applications on an enterprise scale.

Tying Linux into the app server is further evidence the open-source operating environment is enterprise-read y. More importantly for Red Hat, though, is the new alliance serves to bolster in its software offering amid its escalating war with Sun Microsystems.

By partnering with BEA, Red Hat is trying to lure customers that rely on the WebLogic platform, which in the past commonly ran on top of Solaris using Sun's machine based on a high-end Sparc (RISC) processors. Linux allows those customers to save money because WebLogic can now run on cheaper Intel-based machines.

But Sun apparently isn't ready to throw in the towel. On Monday, it introduced its first low-end Intel-based (x86) machines that run on a proprietary version of Linux.

In an interview with internetnews.com, Mark de Visser, Red Hat's vice president of marketing, characterized Sun's announcement as "too little, too late."

Under its alliance, Red Hat will distribute BEA's proprietary server-side JVM, called "JRockit," through its Red Hat Network, making BEA the only third-party solution on the open-source support network.

"The additional benefit of Java is it makes transparent the platform it runs on," de Visser said.

BEA said the move comes as a result of the growing importance that Linux displays in the workplace.

"In general, the rise of interest [in Linux] in our customer base is dramatic. The demand is increasingly large. And that is not unique to our customer base," said Bob Griswold, general manager of Java Runtime Products Group at BEA. "With the economy the way it is right now, they are even more interested in findning the lowest cost system available."

The alliance melds the open nature of Linux with the highly portable Java . Red Hat first unveiled its Advanced Server in late March in hopes of extending its reach beyond the individual with distributions of its Red Hat Linux, version 7.x (latest 7.3). Prior to that, Red Hat's push into the enterprise rarely went beyond the firewall with the Linux environment supporting file, email or web servers but rarely the application server or database.

"Now it is an application server or a database server," de Visser said. "It now is an enterprise platform and we're proving it."

Coincidentally, Java has followed a similar migration path throughout the enterprise. It was initially developed as a client software tool. But without an overly cumbersome graphical user interface to slow down data transfers, Java quickly became accepted as server-side technology and spread from the web throughout an enterprise database.

That server-side competitive advantage has helped one Web services vendor after another embrace Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) as the primary means for programs to communicate at the expense of Microsoft and its .NET framework.

But de Visser explained that Red Hat's intentions with the BEA partnership isn't to target Microsoft.

"The UNIX platforms are being replaced by Linux...our focus is not to convert Microsoft customers to Linux customers," he said.

Separately, Red Hat announced it will offer global support for the upcoming AMD Opteron and AMD Athlon processors based on AMD's Hammer technology in Advanced Server and all future enterprise Linux offerings from Red Hat. Under the deal, Red Hat will provide native 64-bit support for processors based on AMD's x86-64 technology, while providing support for existing 32-bit Linux-based applications.