Red Hat, Novell Kick Off Open-Source App Server Battle

The two leading commercial Linux vendors--Red Hat and Novell--have fired the first shots in the next open-source market battleground: application servers.

August 13, 2004

3 Min Read
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The two leading commercial Linux vendors--Red Hat and Novell--have fired the first shots in the next open-source market battleground: application servers.

At this week's LinuxWorld Expo, Red Hat formally released its Application Server based on ObjectWeb's Jonas open-source project. Novell unveiled an expanded partnership with JBoss and plans to phase out its own Extend application server.

And during a Tuesday press conference at LinuxWorld, Novell announced a bundle of the JBoss Application Server with its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, introduced at the show. Novell also said it plans to include JBoss Application Server 4.X in place of its own application server with the next upgrade of Extend in 2005.

Novell will continue to offer support for its Extend application server as well as IBM WebSphere, BEA WebLogic and Jakarta Tomcat but will now use JBoss rather than its own application server in the Extend suite. Novell Worldwide Services will offer full migration services for customers that want to migrate from Extend or other proprietary application servers to JBoss, company executives said.

Chris Stone, Novell's vice chairman, Office of the CEO, took a swipe at Red Hat by pointing out that JBoss--not Jonas--has more popular support. "JBoss has 50 percent market share. It's clear that's what customers want," Stone said, adding that Novell's support of JBoss is far more than an endorsement. "The relationship is fairly deep. It's a bundling and support relationship."Red Hat held a press conference Monday to announce the Red Hat Application Server with ObjectWeb. The Linux software leader got the backing of partners IBM, BEA Systems and Oracle.

Though Red Hat's support of Jonas gives a big lift to open standards, there's plenty of room for competition between open-source offerings and higher-end proprietary offerings, such as WebSphere, Oracle and BEA, said Pierre Fricke, vice president of application integration and infrastructure at D.H. Brown, a Port Chester, N.Y.-based consulting firm. "It's still early in the game," Fricke said.

Still, it's clear that open-source partners joining forces with Linux commercial vendors are ready for battle. For instance, JBoss CEO Marc Fleury, who has struck deals with Novell and Hewlett-Packard, took a swipe at Red Hat's Jonas-based application server. "Red Hat is ignorant about the middleware space. They're an operating system vendor. So when it comes to middleware, they don't know the leader," Fleury said.

Fleury claimed Red Hat held talks with JBoss, but the two parties couldn't come to terms, which led to the agreement with ObjectWeb. "Red Hat picked Jonas because they wouldn't get into a revenue-sharing agreement with us," he said. Red Hat had no comment.

Yet in a LinuxWorld keynote address, Red Hat CEO Matt Szulik took a lighter stance on competition. He pointed to a rising incidence of two-horse races in the open-source software market but noted that customers have more freedom of choice with open source than with proprietary software."It's the Noah's Ark syndrome in the technology industry, where there's two of each," Szulik quipped to the packed audience at San Francisco's Moscone Center.

On the database front, IBM triggered another battle at LinuxWorld by announcing plans to open-source Cloudscape, an embedded lightweight database that will go up against Sleepycat Software's popular Berkeley database. IBM's DB2 for Linux is being challenged by MySQL.

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