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Red Hat: The money's in JBoss, not the desktop

Linux specialist is starting to create friction, as well as money, with partners by moving up the software stack. Should it stop with mission-critical middleware?

The VAR Guy puts together a compelling argument for Red Hat's focus on JBoss middleware over the desktop. The net? There's a lot more money in JBoss than in the desktop, at least in the short term.

Red Hat's vice president of global channel sales, Mark Enzweiler, confirms:

JBoss middleware is like a central nervous system. It's so mission-critical that customers are willing to pay Red Hat or the company's integration partners roughly $11.12 in consulting fees for every $1 they spend on JBoss itself.

Contrarily, the desktop drives nowhere near that level of secondary income.

Here's the catch, though: if this is true of JBoss middleware, it's even more true of enterprise applications like customer relations management and enterprise resource planning. Why do you think Oracle has moved so quickly into applications, just as the storm clouds were gathering around the commoditization of the database? It's difficult to commodify an application because it runs a company's critical business functions.

Will this drive Red Hat into applications over time, just as it drove it higher up the software stack into JBoss? Perhaps. Red Hat managed to pacify partners like IBM for a long time by keeping out of the middleware fight, but its JBoss acquisition set it at odds with IBM and others.

IBM, in particular, has cozied up with Novell's Suse Linux more and more as a way of trying to neutralize Red Hat's growing power beyond the operating system.

Getting into applications will exacerbate that friction, but at some point, the friction is worth the return.