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Novell, IBM Counterpunch Red Hat's Application Stack

Published: October 18, 2006

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

Once upon a time, the open source JBoss Java application server was a neutral player in the server market. But back in April, when commercial Linux distributor Red Hat shelled out $350 million in cash and stock to acquire JBoss, that middleware platform was no longer the same Switzerland it used to be. It was only a matter of time before Novell, which was a JBoss distributor itself, had to find another ally.

A month ago, Red Hat launched the Application Stack, an integrated version of its Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server 4 that includes the JBoss Application Server. It acts as the middleman between Java virtual machines and Apache Web servers, and the JBoss Hibernate tool, which allows SQL database calls to work from inside Java applications and work through the JBoss middleware. The Application Stack also includes a license to the latest releases of the MySQL or PostgreSQL databases, and the RHEL software already has the Apache Web server and the Perl, Python, PHP, and Java tools built in. With the Application Stack, Red Hat has integrated all of these tools and provides a discounted price for the combination. Pricing ranges from $1,999 on a two-socket server (compared to $349 for RHEL 4 ES) for Application Stack Basic Edition, to $5,499 for the Standard Edition (which has better support than the Basic Edition) on a four-socket box, to $8,499 for the Premium Edition (which has 24x7 support) on a four-socket box. If you add in the cost of the JBoss software and RHEL software, Red Hat is discounting approximately 20 percent off the cost of buying a Linux license and the JBoss tools separately.

While Novell is still supporting its JBoss customers and can still sell JBoss through a pre-Red Hat agreement, Novell obviously does not want to do anything that would give Red Hat money for its coffers. So, Novell has partnered with IBM to create a Linux-middleware stack aimed at small and medium businesses, a place where JBoss has not traditionally been aimed at.

The Integrated Stack for SUSE Linux Enterprise combines the new SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, which Novell launched in July, and IBM's WebSphere Application Server Community Edition and DB2 Express-C database. That WebSphere middleware is a mix of the Apache Geronimo application server, which includes the Apache Derby database for development and the Tomcat server for rendering Java Server Pages and Java servlets. The DB2 Express-C database is not open source, but it is freely distributed by IBM. The Integrated Stack for SUSE Linux Enterprise also includes the Likewise Management Suite from Centeris, which is a system management tool that can manage a network of Linux and Windows servers. Both IBM and Novell are partners of Centeris.

Novell is charging $349 per server for the Integrated Stack for SUSE Linux Enterprise, which is exactly the same list price Novell is charging for license to its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10. Both the Integrated Stack and SLES 10 licenses include 30 days of installation support and a year of Web-based tech support and patches to the combined software. With the IBM software already being free, what the Novell license really means is that the Centeris software is the free bit. And, the three companies have done some integration work on making these tools install and work together.

Justin Steinman, director of marketing for Linux and open platform solutions at Novell, said the idea of integrating these products came from its customers and its sales channel, and that 750 customers have already licensed the Integrated Stack before it was formally launched today. "Good things come out of the field," Steinman said. "This is one of those times that customers were asking for something, so we delivered it."

Of course, Red Hat, Novell, and IBM are all well aware that the Red Hat Application Stack is aimed much more at enterprise-class customers, who need beefier Java support as well as more scalable databases. And Steinman says IBM and Novell are considering taking the Integrated Stack up another notch, adding the full-blown WebSphere Application Server and DB2 database. "Depending on the success of this offering, we will examine doing an enterprise-level stack," Steinman explained.

The Integrated Stack for SUSE Linux Enterprise is available now worldwide. According to the announcement, the Integrated Stack for SUSE Linux Enterprise was launched to run on IBM's System x and BladeCenter blade servers that use X86 and X64 servers. But Steinman says the software can run on any X86 or X64 server, and customers can buy the stack directly through Novell or through the Novell reseller channel for any other brand of server. IBM, of course, wants customers to deploy it on its servers. Then again, IBM will sell the Red Hat Application Stack on its entire server line, so loyalty only means so much in the IT business these days.


Red Hat Launches Integrated Linux-JBoss Software Stack

Novell Aggressively Launches SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10

Red Hat Buys JBoss--Your Move, Novell

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