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Red Hat aims to remake server messaging

The Linux seller plans to launch a new server messaging product line in coming months, beginning with a beta test in December. Proprietary rivals take heed.

SAN FRANCISCO--Red Hat plans to begin a private beta test of new open-source messaging software next month, hoping to shake up a section of the server market currently dominated by proprietary rivals and give the Linux seller a new revenue source.

Server messaging software's purpose is--bear with me here for a moment--sending messages. That may sound obvious, but doing it reliably and in high volume is essential to large-scale networked business tasks such as trading stocks, where a brokerage that can place buy and sell orders faster than a rival can make real money.

Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens Red Hat

Indeed, Red Hat's APQM began its life as proprietary messaging software at financial services giant JP Morgan Chase, said Red Hat Chief Technology Officer Brian Stevens in an interview here during Oracle OpenWorld.

The beta test will involve only 10 to 12 customers and a lot of hand-holding, Stevens said. Red Hat expects to begin selling support subscriptions for the completed software in the first half of 2008, he added.

"We're going to build a subscription around it," Stevens said, adding that it will be integrated with Red Hat's work into fast-response "real-time" operating system technology. At least initially, the messaging subscription won't be included in the regular Red Hat Enterprise Linux support subscription that's the company's financial mainstay, he added.

After acquiring the JP Morgan Chase software, Red Hat made it into an open-source project called Qpid at the Apache Software Foundation, hired programmers to improve it, and joined with networking giant Cisco Systems to try to make the software's mechanisms an industry standard called AMQP, or Advanced Message Queuing Protocol.

That JP Morgan Chase would have to build its own rather than use off-the-shelf products is a telling indicator of the state of the industry, Stevens said, arguing that today's commercial products aren't able to perform well enough. Red Hat's goal, though he wouldn't promise the first version will achieve it, is to enable a server to process 1 million messages per second.

That's roughly five times that of proprietary software such from Tibco and IBM, Stevens said. And although he says his company's goal is to meet customers' demands, Stevens spoke with some relish of the prospect of "collateral damage" that might undermine the proprietary rivals.

Those rivals aren't standing still. IBM last week announced WebSphere MQ Low Latency Messaging Version 2.0, which the company said could process "millions" of messages per second.

Messaging has been in Red Hat's sights for years. In 2005, Chief Executive Matthew Szulik said messaging is one element of higher-level software where Red Hat could grow beyond its core operating system business.

Stevens has high hopes for AMQP. For one thing, making it a network standard means that companies such as Cisco could accelerate it by intelligently processing address and priority information. For another, Red Hat expects it'll be automatically logged so that message sequences can be replayed if necessary. And keeping records eliminates a need for separate software used for auditing and regulatory compliance, he said.

Several others are joining Red Hat and Cisco in working to make AMQP a standard. Among them are Novell, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Boerse Systems, Goldman Sachs, Iona Technologies, and 29West Inc

"We want to standardize message queuing--to make it as standard as TCP/IP," the network standard that powers the Internet.