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Red Hat to serve Java

Red Hat next week will offer support services for an open-source Java application server.

Red Hat will grow beyond its Linux roots next week and sell a subscription service supporting an open-source Java application server, according to people familiar with the company's plans.

Earlier this year, Red Hat said it planned to start selling subscription services supporting Jonas, an open-source Java application server built by the France-based consortium ObjectWeb. Much as it charges for services around its version of the free Linux operating system, Red Hat is planning on selling support services for Jonas at $999 a year, according to one person familiar with the company's plans.

The move will put Red Hat, which has built its business around Linux, in direct competition with JBoss, a company that sells services around its namesake open-source Java application server. Red Hat's entry into Java infrastructure software could also encroach on the turf of Java vendors IBM, BEA Systems, Oracle and Sun Microsystems.

A Red Hat spokesperson on Wednesday did not comment on the company's Java application server plans, but noted that Red Hat is planning a press conference Monday evening a part of the LinuxWorld event in San Francisco.

Application servers provide a standard way to run programs, written in Java or other programming languages, on various hardware servers. Application servers perform such common tasks as pulling data from corporate databases or serving up Web pages to desktop PCs. Jonas is built around the prevailing Java server standard, Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE).

The Jonas application server gives Red Hat a foothold in the market for Java software and tools. But its Java push is not expected to shake up the Java software and tools market to the same degree that Red Hat rattled the Linux and server operating systems arenas, analysts said. There are already free Java application servers on the market, and commercial companies have full-featured Java server software suites.

"What this does is offer a department-level application server that is pretty bare-bones. It's not a fully integrated deployment platform," said Dana Gardner, an analyst at The Yankee Group.

Tooling with Java
As part of its move into Java server software, Red Hat will be filling out its programming tools line. Commercial application server companies often sell Java programming tools closely aligned with their server software.

In a future release of Red Hat's application server, the company intends to support open-source Java development tools from BEA, called Beehive, according to people familiar with Red Hat's plans. The Beehive software, which works in conjunction with Java programming tools, provides visual drag-and-drop tools to ease the process of building Java programs.

Bundling open-source Java software and tools is part of Red Hat's Open Source Architecture, a plan to offer a full suite of Linux-based infrastructure software to large corporations. Other parts will include clustering software to join several systems together in a cooperative group and programming tools based on the Eclipse open-source tools application.