Red Hat moves beyond Linux with E-Commerce suite

CIOL Bureau
New Update

NEW YORK: Red Hat Inc., best known as a distributor of the upstart Linux

operating system, is branching out.


The company is set to announce on Friday the Red Hat E-Commerce suite, a

cornerstone of its strategy to concentrate not only on Linux, a competitor of

Microsoft Corp.'s Windows and other operating systems, but also on other

"open-source" software tools.

"This is a significant step from Red Hat in broadening their

focus," said IDC analyst Michele Rosen. Unlike proprietary software from

companies like Microsoft, the inner workings of open-source software are freely

available on the Internet and elsewhere, leaving developers free to tinker with

and improve the programs.

The individual pieces of Red Hat's suite, which includes the Apache Secure

Webserver, an open-source database called PostgreSQL and Red Hat Linux itself,

are thus available for free on the Internet. A central component of the suite,

Akopia's Interchange e-commerce platform, came to Red Hat when it bought the

open-source developer earlier this year.


"That's a pretty common set of products to use out in the wild,"

Rosen said. Because the software components are available for free, Red Hat is

betting that its suite's ease of installation and tightly integrated functions -

as well as support from its service center - will be worth the price, about

$3,000 for a one-year license.

The suite is aimed at medium-size business, according to Red Hat's Charles

Gold - those too big for basic e-commerce packages from companies like Yahoo,

but too small for multimillion dollar packages from giants like Oracle Corp. and

BroadVision .

"It's not meant to be an Oracle or Broadvision killer," Gold said.

Not all analysts are convinced that open-source software like the PostgreSQL

database program is ready for prime time in the business world, despite the

success of Linux and Apache, which is now a de facto standard for Web servers.


"Open-source databases are not going to be able to compete with software

by the large database vendors like Oracle, Microsoft and IBM ," said First

Albany analyst Mark Murphy. "This is rocket science, what a database does,

and it's just not likely that something so critical is going to be taken over by

an open-source product."

But open-source advocates argue that programs like Linux and Apache are often

more reliable than their proprietary counterparts, thanks to scores of

volunteers who scour the code to find bugs and optimize performance.

The PosgreSQL database, for example, "lags behind in terms of proven

capacity compared to Apache or Linux," Rosen said, "but it's certainly

capable of running a decent-sized e-commerce site." Asked how open-source

can be an advantage, Red Hat's Gold related the tale of an anonymous programmer

who downloaded a demo version of the e-commerce suite hours after its release.

"Someone took the demo and by the next day created a Japanese-language

site with it" by modifying the code, he said. "That just does not

happen with proprietary software."

(C) Reuters Limited 2001.