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Red Hat's JBoss Acquisition Could Create A New Open-Source Powerhouse

Red Hat's $350 million purchase of JBoss, the open-source application server company, has the potential to create a new open source code powerhouse. That's because it moves Red Hat from being just an operating system distributor to a provider of a larger software stack, particularly in middleware.

Middleware software will generate an estimated $6.5 billion in revenue this year, predicts the research firm Gartner. This deal will let Red Hat tap that market by combining its own name-brand version of the Linux operating system with JBoss' growing Enterprise Middleware Suite. In addition to the JBoss application server, the suite includes Hibernate, considered one of the best pieces of open source code for mapping Java objects into relational databases; JBoss Portal; JBoss Rules, a rules engine; and coming in the second quarter, a JBoss Web server.

Yet Red Hat's move will also bring it into direct competition with an old ally, IBM. IBM is a great supporter of the Linux operating system for running servers. But it has also been contributing developers' efforts to bulking up Geronimo, an open-source application server project of the Apache Software Foundation, which competes with JBoss.

The Red Hat open-source combination will plunge Red Hat into the growing competition to become a general-purpose supplier of software for those rebuilding enterprise applications into a service-oriented architecture. IBM saw the potential for open source code to provide what it termed a starter kit for SOA last year when it acquired Gluecode, a startup that provided software and services around the Apache Geronimo application server. Now there's more startup activity in the area. A startup called LogicBlaze includes the Geronimo application server in its open-source stack, aimed at SOA projects. LogicBlaze is run by one of Gluecode's founders, Winston Damarillo.

"Red Hat believes the combination, once consummated, will help accelerate the shift to SOA by making innovative, powerful solutions available to developers" who are seeking to lower deployment costs, said Matthew Szulik, Red Hat chairman, in a prepared statement on the acquisition.

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