JBoss buy could antagonise Big Blue

Some analysts believe IBM could lose out as a result of the recent Red Hat-JBoss deal. But others aren't so sure. China Martens reports

Red Hat’s planned purchase of JBoss could result in Red Hat partners such as IBM building on their relationships with other Linux distribution players, notably Novell, some analysts say.

“Novell will probably call IBM and say, ‘Let’s do something’,” says RedMonk analyst James Governor. “Maybe Debian will benefit and maybe IBM can show them some love.”

Governor sees IBM as the main party to be affected by the proposed $US350 million (NZ$570 million) Red Hat-JBoss tie-up. JBoss, which provides open source middleware products, has made no secret of its antagonism towards IBM’s rival middleware, WebSphere and Governor thinks its attitude is unlikely to change.

Meanwhile, Oracle continues to mull over its own position in the open source market, with a view to possibly buying Novell itself.

Dana Gardner, principal analyst with Interarbor Solutions, expects IBM to re-evaluate its relationship with Red Hat and take another look at its own approach to open source software. Creating a rival open source stack, running on Novell’s Suse Linux, IBM’s WebSphere Application Server Community Edition and some Eclipse tools could act as a counterbalance to Red Hat/JBoss, he says.

Michael Goulde, senior analyst with Forrester Research, questions whether IBM will see the Red Hat-JBoss deal as a competitive threat. As open source software grows in appeal among its customers, IBM needs to be seen to be more receptive to the technology. If the deal encourages more users to adopt SOA (service-oriented architecture), they’re going to need the kind of services and hardware that they could buy from IBM, he says.

Users will definitely benefit from the Red Hat purchase, Governor says. “Customers are already using JBoss to whack IBM and BEA over pricing,” he says. “If you’re a Red Hat customer and a WebSphere customer, you’ll probably have a very interesting conversation with your sales reps over the next couple of months.”

As for the proposed deal itself, bringing JBoss and Red Hat together makes sense, Gardner says. The move marks “something of a seismic shift in the open source landscape,” he says. The combined company will be able to offer a “soup-to-nuts open source stack” encompassing virtualisation through the operating system, middleware and tools, right up to catering to the needs of enterprises looking to deploy SOAs, he says.

Having such an open source stack really starts to change the debate over open source versus proprietary software, Gardner says. Instead of merely commoditising areas already inhabited by proprietary software, open source software will begin to play more of a role in developing new types of capabilities, he says.

Once Red Hat has digested JBoss, the company may look for another acquisition to flesh out its open-source stack, some analysts predict.

Goulde says the purchase would more likely be in the development tools space.

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