Red Hat scoops up JBoss

Ending speculation, Linux distributor shells out $350 million for open-source Java company.

Linux distributor Red Hat said on Monday that it has signed an agreement to buy open-source company JBoss for at least $350 million, a move that expands Red Hat's product line and adds to its growth potential.

The transaction involves 40 percent cash and 60 percent Red Hat stock, with an additional $70 million owed, subject to financial performance. Red Hat said the deal, which is expected to close next month, will add to the Raleigh, N.C.-based company's earnings next year.

Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik said combining Red Hat and JBoss will enable the company to provide corporate customers with a more complete "open-source stack" of software.

"The planned acquisition reinforces the seriousness of our commitment to developers and customers to provide an integrated development platform of tools and services based on the collaborative power of open source," Szulik said in a conference call Monday with financial analysts.

The two companies employ a similar business model, where they charge customers a subscription fee for products and ongoing support, rather than an up-front license fee.

With the acquisition, Red Hat gains a popular open-source Java application server (used for running custom business applications written in Java) and a more substantial offering for Java developers. JBoss is assembling a suite of open-source Java middleware, including a portal, messaging and a transaction server.

JBoss, which has about 150 employees, will operate as an independent division within Red Hat, with JBoss founder and CEO Marc Fleury reporting to Szulik.

Red Hat sells support for a competing open-source application server, called Jonas, from the France-based consortium ObjectWeb. Red Hat and JBoss had tried to come to terms on a partnership around the JBoss application server but were unable to, JBoss executives have said.

Red Hat's move ends months of , which has seen rapid growth in the past two years and had become a likely takeover candidate.

Two weeks ago, Fleury said that given the Atlanta-based company's strong finances, the next step for it "will probably be equity for an IPO or the right M&A."

Amid the growing number of open-source start-ups and their investors, the $350 million acquisition number is a validation of the open-source business model and an attractive payout. JBoss was largely self-funded and took in $10 million in venture investment in 2004.

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