Red Hat jumped back into the acquisition game announcing this morning that it has acquiredMakara, a start-up focused on providing a cloud platform (platform-as-a-service, or PaaS) for Java and PHP applications on both public and private clouds.
The open-source stalwart has been on the PaaS march for the last few months for a number of reasons, including the necessity to support applications in multiple environments and demand for private cloud solutions from large enterprises.
If you read between the lines from Red Hat executive comments (and the rumor mill), it seemed like Red Hat had Makara, or a Makara-like platform, in its sights for the last several months. I do wonder a bit why Red Hat focused on PaaS as opposed to a more infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) play such as Eucalyptus or but suspect that cloud infrastructure is already a commodity thanks to Amazon EC2 and Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud. PaaS brings Red Hat up the stack to where applications live and leaves the plumbing alone.
When IIssac Roth in February of this year, he described the software approach as allowing developers to take advantage of the cloud by moving to a virtual layer.
The idea behind this virtual layer is to enable developers to easily take Web applications to cloud environments--be they private, public, hybrid, or elsewhere in the ether. Instead of retrofitting system management software designed for traditional application environments, developers can leverage the virtual layer to allow developers to deploy, scale, and monitor applications in cloud environments--with an emphasis on speed and ease.
And while that technical approach sounds all well and good, it's not terribly obvious how this fits into Red Hat's enterprise offerings. In fact, it was only a few months ago that the company released a product based on JBoss that could be viewed as competition to Makara's own offering. From what I can tell, the difference is in the fact that Makara was heavily focused on providing its platform atop of bare-metal virtual machines, whereas JBoss is more geared toward leveraging the operating system. (Note: it would be great if someone could explain the difference in the comments below.)
Red Hat has made a number of acquisitions over the years and its success ratio has been a bit spotty. Not spotty so much in terms of the technologies it acquires losing adoption, but in the fact that revenue gains have taken multiple years--if ever--to be realized.
The JBoss acquisition in 2006 was initially viewed as a coup, but the two corporate cultures didn't mix well and Red Hat quickly found itself without many of the better-known JBoss staff members. Four years later, this turned out to not matter all that much, but there was a lot of pain to get JBoss to a point of increased profitability and growth.
Despite theof Red Hat's acquisitions, I've personally pushed a number of times on CEO Jim Whitehurst to roll up even more companies--open source and cloud--in order to keep the ecosystem flowing and to increase the company's footprint into other areas. And while I understand the difficulty of turning such a big ship, the open-source start-up ecosystem would benefit from a central gathering point if it can't make it on its own.