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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 said.

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 relationship.

"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 was."

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

In a statement sent to internetnews.com, 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."