Making a play for dominance of the open source application server market, especially for small and medium size business (SMB) implementing service-oriented architecture (SOA), IBM will put its WebSphere Application Servers Community Edition (WAS CE) on Novell Inc.'s SUSE Linux.
In announcing their partnership Tuesday afternoon at the LinuxWorld Conference in San Francisco, IBM and Novell directly challenged Red Hat Inc. and its JBoss open source products. Making their intentions plain, the joint announcement said: "IBM and Novell will offer support and migration tools to help customers using JBoss to quickly and easily move to WAS CE."
Asked about the this statement, Patty Dudek, vice president of WebSphere server development at IBM, said, "The migration helps the customer take an application that's running on JBoss and migrate the application, migrate the configuration files to make it all happen very smoothly."
It sets up what should be a brand name open source SOA battle.
"The joint marketing and sales and support program that both of our companies will develop," Dudek added, "will absolutely give us an edge over a Red Hat/JBoss combination. Both IBM and Novell bring tremendous resources and experience. I think the combination of WebSphere and support from Novell cannot be matched."
The open source market where SMBs seek to lower the cost of software was identified by both IBM and Novell as a lucrative target for the joint offering.
"We both believe this will expand our reach into the growing open source app server market," Dudek said.
Asked for a response to this challenge, Red Hat did not join the debate over which vendor has the best open source offering. The Red Hat public relations department issued a two-sentence reply to a reporter's question. The Red Hat statement said: "Customers continue to feel pressure to lower IT cost without sacrificing quality. JBoss has raised the bar with value and has competitors taking notice."
The threat to Red Hat is somewhat muted by the current feature set of IBM's open source community edition of WebSphere application server, said Bradley F. Shimmin, principal analyst of application infrastructure at Current Analysis LLC.
"From Novell's perspective, if they were bundling WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment 6.1, then this would signal a threat to Red Hat," the analyst said. "The WAS CE product does not include all of the niceties that many enterprises have come to expect from an application server regarding availability, scalability and performance. For that, customers need WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment or WebSphere Extended Deployment."
Red Hat's product offering already supports Java EE 5, Shimmin said. Dudek promised that the new WAS CE 2.0 coming later this year will also support the latest Java enterprise platform. Shimmin noted that support for Java EE 5, which has not received critical acclaim especially for SOA development, is not likely to "make or break any sales for the next nine months or so."
Michael Applebaum, senior product marketing manager for Novell, said the appeal of WAS CE on SUSE will be the integration of development platform and operating system. "We view this as a very compelling offering for customers who are looking for an integrated solution to the operating system and the application server," he said.
But Shimmin said the operating system advantage may be overtaken by advances in virtualization in the SOA world.
"From IBM's standpoint, this is smart simply because it helps the company broaden and deepen its support for differing OS platforms," the analyst said. "Still, all of this may be moot in the long run. I suspect if virtualization ever becomes a staple of the data center for hosting SOA platforms, then the question of which Linux distribution a given application server supports will no longer occupy the mind of your average IT manager."