Finally, Red Hat Enterprise Software for the Masses


I was very bullish on the Red Hat Exchange (RHX) when it was launched two years ago but it never played out as I thought it might. I saw it as a one-stop shop for applications certified to work in the Red Hat universe. Part of the reason that the idea didn't take off, perhaps, was Red Hat's broad definition of applications (anything that is not operating software).


A second problem might have been a self-imposed or self-selecting slant to software available only via open source terms and conditions (Ts&Cs). A lot of great software that works with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is marketed with non-open source Ts&Cs. Why the limitation? Why isn't Oracle's RDBMS on the RHX along with Ingres and EnterpriseDB? Ha! Ha! Seriously, IT users in general do not make an initial determination as to what enterprise software they'll try and/or use based on contractual or legal issues.


But I give Red Hat high marks for sticking with the idea that there has to be a more customer-friendly way to get integrated stacks of RHEL-related software of all types to market. It needs one of its ideas to work because it wants to run half the servers in the world by 2015 and the guy who controls the other half already has an integrated stack.


Red Hat also wins high marks for not adoptng a not-invented-here point of view. Since RHX did not do the job, on April 14, Red Hat partnered with SYNNEX to launch the Open Source Channel Alliance. SYNNEX is a subsidiary or spinout of MiTAC, the large electronics contract manufacturing/outsourcing firm. Its stock has been traded for six years on the NY Stock Exchange. SYNNEX itself is both an IT outsourcer and an IT distributor, an interesting and possibly unique combination putting it in competition with both HP's EDS and TechData. Given the buzzword du jour, SYNNEX calls itself a "business process" services firm.


Based on years of experience in IT distribution that Red Hat lacked, SYNNEX pulled together Red Hat and eight other open-source-based independent software vendors (ISVs). It's going to be the middleman to get product to smaller value added resellers (VARs) and system integrators the same way TechData and others were for minis and PCs at the beginning of their eras.


Other members of the Open Source Channel Alliance are Alfresco, EnterpriseDB, Ingres, Jaspersoft, Likewise, Pentaho, Zmanda, Zenoss and Zimbra (a division of Yahoo). All are members of the RHX and all but Ingres and Likewise were charter members. Other RHX charter members MySQL, Groundwork Sugar, Concursive, and Compiere are not involved (I understand why MySQL isn't but not sure about the rest). Red Hat has "identified" - but not certified -- this group as providers of enterprise-ready, open source applications and solutions that are supported on RHEL as well as JBoss middleware.


Of course there is still the problem of focusing on Ts&Cs rather than functionality. Why is it called the Open Source Alliance instead of the Red Hat Alliance? Why not include any functionality that works with RHEL? But if SYNNEX finds that Ts&Cs slant to be an issue, as I bet it will, it can easily sell you any other IT you want as well because of its many distributorship arrangements. For example, it also partners with Microsoft, Novell and Symantec.


That's the case if you think of SYNNEX in this case to be like TechData. If you think of it as being like EDS, it sends the wrong signal to the small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that Red Hat wants to reach. SMB is a market segment spoiled by dealing with the AS/400 dealer channel or Windows solutions providers. Sure, such channel players are not that different than a SYNNEX in terms of talent brought to the SI table but IBM and Microsoft partners project a home-town or industry-specific image that the SMB wants to see. I am pretty sure SYNNEX wants to sell RHEL et. al. to you via those home-town SIs and and VARs and not direct.