Red Hat, JBoss: The Pros And Cons

Red Hat’s acquisition of JBoss today is getting mixed reviews from industry analysts.

It’s clear
that Red Hat will benefit in a variety of ways, but there may be potential
downsides, as well, including culture issues and potential conflict with IBM.

Burton Group analyst Anne Thomas Manes noted that the deal will be
beneficial to JBoss because Red Hat has a much larger, more mature worldwide
sales and marketing infrastructure.

Red Monk analyst Stephen O’Grady also noted the positive potential upside
for both players in the deal.

“Red Hat gets access to a very popular platform and some valuable
developers,” O’Grady said. “JBoss gets access to greater resources that will
allow it to better compete with the likes of IBM without having to take the
time to grow organically or via IPO.”

On the flipside, Burton Group’s Thomas Manes thinks that there are issues
that will need to be addressed about partners and the respective cultures of
the two organizations.

“It’s questionable, though, how long it will take for the Red Hat sales and
marketing team to gain competence in selling an application platform, which
is much further ‘up the stack’ than the operating system,” Thomas Manes

Forrester Research Senior Analyst Michael Goulde also commented that the two
companies have different philosophies, strategy and culture with regard to
open source that will have to be resolved in order for the combined
companies to gain leverage from one another.

“Customers will be somewhat cautious,” Goulde said. “Neither Red Hat nor
JBoss are at the top of customers’ lists as their favorite companies with
which to do business.”

Then of course, there is IBM.

IBM is one of Red Hat’s main partners and its WebSphere application server
competes against JBoss’s offerings. IBM declined to comment on the JBoss/Red
Hat deal for this story.

Burton Group’s Thomas Manes explained that Red Hat has been selling
subscription licenses to Red Hat Application Server (RHAS, powered by Object
Web’s JOnAS) for a while, and that hasn’t really impacted the IBM

“Of course JOnAS isn’t nearly as popular as JBoss, but I don’t think IBM
will terminate its relationship with Red Hat because of this acquisition,”
she said.

“IBM has not felt the pinch from JBoss as much as the other Java
EE vendors. It will take a while for Red Hat to gain credibility with IBM
customers that it is a major-league application platform vendor.”

Forrester’s Goulde is also of the opinion that IBM is probably okay with
the deal.

“It helps validate the open source alternative and Red Hat will not be able
to provide the consulting services necessary to fully implement SOA
strategies, possibly generating consulting business for IBM,” Goulde said.

Smaller Java EE vendors such as BEA, which is already losing market share to
JBoss are among those that Buton Group’s Thomas Manes expects to be hurt by
the Red Hat JBoss deal. She also expects that Oracle may also feel some pain
from this acquisition.

To this point, Red Hat has principally been known as an operating system
vendor. That changes a bit with the JBoss acquisition and makes Red Hat a software platform company, as well.

“This doesn’t mean that Red Hat can’t continue to work with middleware
partners (such as IBM) but it does mean that Red Hat has the ability, and
indeed some preference, to sell a more complete integrated stack,”
Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said.

“This will tend to help Red Hat vis a vie Novell for the most part. On the one hand, it gives Red Hat a more
complete in-house offering. On the other hand, Jboss middleware remains
important to Novell, and Red Hat can’t be as comfortable a partner as JBoss

Novell expects to continue to work JBoss, even though its competitor now
owns them.

In a statement sent to, Novell
spokesperson Bruce Lowry said Novell has partnered with and
supported many proprietary and open source alternatives for application
servers, including IBM WebSphere, BEA WebLogic, JBoss, Tomcat and Geronimo.

“We have a contract in place with JBoss and we plan to continue to honor
that contract,” the Novell statement reads. “Our approach in helping
customers define their open Enterprise is completely customer-driven. We
will continue to offer and support the components of the stack that
customers request.”

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