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Swisscom decision points the way to the Red Hat ecosystem sale

Red Hat just showcased a significant deal that points the way to its future: end-to-end open-source solutions and the management layer to tie it all together.

I normally wouldn't cover a Red Hat customer acquisition--after all, the company earns more than 10,000 new customers every quarter. It's just not news when it adds a new one, even a big one like Swisscom IT Services, as announced today.

But the Swisscom deal is significant, and not because of Linux. In fact, Swisscom IT Services already had a comprehensive Linux solution in place. Indeed, buying Linux is now such a no-brainer decision that reporting on Linux adoption is like reporting on someone buying furniture. You might decide to change the store from which you buy it, but you're not going to stop buying it. Everyone needs furniture.

No, the Swisscom decision points to Red Hat's success in selling operating system-to-middleware ecosystem value, and that, I believe, is very significant.

Reading through the case study for Swisscom, you can get a feel for how the decision tree worked:

Swisscom IT Services needed to create a standardized and stable operating system environment to host outsourced services for its customers. The company also wanted to simplify the provisioning and allocation of new servers by creating an automated staging infrastructure.

Prior to the JBoss integration, Swisscom may well have stayed with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but would have gone out in search of alternative sources for middleware. Maybe it would have settled on BEA or IBM's Websphere, either of which would have been a good choice but arguably not a deeply well-integrated choice. In fact, I'd argue that the lack of tight integration may well have nudged Swisscom to look to IBM for a complete solution, since IBM has the kind of integration expertise to deliver on Swisscom's needs.

Beyond the middleware, however, there was one central piece missing from any other Linux-based option:

As of June 2007, Swisscom IT Services operates approximately 70 SAP, 40 Oracle, 90 Web and 100 JBoss application servers in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux-based SIMLUX environment. The IT service provider also uses Red Hat Cluster Suite as the basis for 20 cluster nodes. The SAN provides 40 Terabyte of memory too. With the benefits of Red Hat's management tools, Swisscom IT Services' two Linux administrators are more than capable of maintaining the entire infrastructure. They ensure optimum supply for more than 50 outsourcing clients on the SIMLUX platform in addition to other responsibilities.

The SIMLUX infrastructure offers Swisscom IT Services an extremely stable and flexible data environment that can be managed centrally by Red Hat Satellite Server. [Emphasis mine.]

Red Hat Network matters. This is one thing that is increasingly prevalent in the open-source world, but still goes missing from proprietary vendors--central management. I'm not talking about things like Tivoli or Openview. Those are important aspects of IT infrastructure. Rather, I'm referring to a deeply integrated management tool that makes administration of a Linux-based ecosystem easy and productive.

You just won't get this from Oracle, IBM, HP, or anyone else. You also won't get an end-to-end open-source offering, providing the customer with a pay-for-value model and reduced lock-in, that is supereasy to administer. Swisscom says, "The acquisition of JBoss by Red Hat was a stroke of luck for us. This way we profit from the same outstanding price-performance ratio at the middleware layer as well as on the operating system level."

Bingo. I hope this is a sign of good things to come from Red Hat as it moves beyond the operating system. The operating system matters, but only as the foundation upon which to build a middleware and application ecosystem, stitched together by the Red Hat Network.