Red Hat, JBoss tie-up about SOA, stacks, reach

Red Hat Inc.'s planned purchase of JBoss Inc. will enable the Linux distribution company to more fully embrace SOA (service-oriented architecture) as well as expand its offerings of integrated software stacks, according to company executives Monday. For its part, open-source middleware vendor JBoss will gain access to Red Hat's worldwide channels to extend its global reach.

Company executives spoke during a conference call Monday to talk about the surprise US$350 million-plus proposed acquisition, which, subject to regulatory approval, is due to close toward the end of May. In February, database and applications vendor Oracle Corp. was rumored to be in active discussions to purchase JBoss.

Although they didn't address the Oracle rumors, both the Red Hat and JBoss executives stressed their synergies and claimed that users and partners are keen to see a large independent open-source firm.

"We chose the Red Hat option. I believe the companies sit well together," Marc Fleury, JBoss founder, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO), said on the call. Fleury described Red Hat as the "big brother" to JBoss in that the middleware vendor modeled its subscription and services business on the older Linux player.

JBoss will be an independent division of Red Hat, according to Fleury. He will report to Matthew Szulik, Red Hat chairman and CEO. "It was very important to me to know that I was taking this company into an environment that was conflict-free where there could be trust," Fleury said.

Acquiring JBoss will speed up Red Hat's response to customer demand for SOA, according to Szulik. He pointed to the microkernel in the JBoss Java application server that makes it easier for customers to swap in and out the functions they require, an important capability for SOA deployments.

Having JBoss middleware as part of Red Hat will also make it easier for the company to delve deeper into delivering "component-based application architectures," Szulik said.

Red Hat first announced in December its plans to fully certify and support three open-source applications stacks -- a Web application stack, a Java Web application stack and an enterprise Java stack. The enterprise Java stack comes with support for a full Java application server based on the ObjectWeb Consortium's Java Open Application Project (Jonas) project.

"We've made a significant investment in Jonas and we expect that to continue," Szulik said, given that JBoss has its own rival product to Jonas.

JBoss has a strong base in Europe and in the U.S., but not elsewhere.

"JBoss had been looking, and, quite frankly, struggling with geographic expansion," Fleury said, particularly in relation to Asia-Pacific. Having access to Red Hat's indirect and direct sales channels should "greatly help" in increasing worldwide adoption of JBoss middleware, he added.

Looking ahead, JBoss will continue to move further away from its origins as a Java shop, Fleury said, providing customers with a choice of middleware based on Java, the open-source PHP scripting language and Microsoft Corp.'s .Net.

Although brand issues are still being discussed internally, Red Hat is likely to continue the JBoss brand, according to Szulik.

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