Open source provider Red Hat announced two new products in its enterprise middleware portfolio earlier this month; JBoss Fuse, an enterprise service bus; and JBoss A-MQ, a messaging platform.
Both technologies came from Red Hat’s acquisition of FuseSource last September. From the company’s channel point of view, the new products give its resellers the opportunity to compete in the middleware space, without the licensing fees associated with proprietary brands.
“From a middleware perspective, these allow resellers to take advantage of non-licensed product sets that gives them a comptitive, low-cost ESB solution based on Apache that they didn’t have before, because Apache products were not supported in the enterprise environment,” says Derek Wilson, Red Hat’s New Zealand channel manager. “It gives the partner an opportunity, from a services perspective, which they may not have had before. A lot of the middleware products cost is taken up with licensing cost.”
Red Hat works with 40 active resellers in New Zealand, from large system integrators to smaller IT shops. The company says the licensing cost advantage, and the commercially-vetted solutions from a global user community that is inherent to open source technology, makes the technology accessible to any reseller with the right skills.
“It’s not a huge cost in terms of training,” says Wilson. “There is one, but the resellers with the Java skills will pick it up and start selling it quickly.”
Wilson says open source solutions, while gaining mainstream awareness, still must overcome a latent bias toward “brand” named providers along the lines of SAP, Oracle, IBM and Microsoft.
“There is a little bit of a challenge sometimes,” says Wilson. “If I go back a few years, Red Hat Linux five, six, seven years ago had that same issue. They were looking at it and saying, ‘is this enterprise standardised?’ and ‘why wouldn’t we use Unix’. Now it’s regarded as a recognised standard and we’re finding that with JBoss.”
The cost of licensing is often what drives clients to taking open source solutions more seriously, especially when they are paying fees in the proprietary solutions they already use, but for features they don’t need.
“What has happened recently in the last four or five years, there’s been a recognition among customers that they are not using the features from these products and they’re not getting the value or any better service or functionality for paying a lot of money in licensing,” says Andrew Weston, managing director of Propellerhead. “Commercially supported open source has really come leaps and bounds in the last few years, not just in it’s ability to compete but the acceptance that it’s good for large enterprise. They won’t lose security, scalability, and they get a lot back in value.”
Propellerhead is a services oriented organisation with a staff of 50 that integrates business critical applications for the web. Or as Weston more succinctly puts it, “We build what ends up being a website, with integration with back office applications.”
The company works with a range of solutions providers, including Red Hat.
“We find, in the main, that open source software is trimmed down, they don’t have too many features, and the customers are not paying for services they’re not going to use and that fits in with the approach we’ve been taking,” Weston says. “Over the last four or five years we’ve moved more and more from proprietary software solutuions to open source.”
Propellerhead’s clientele “have an enterprise take on software systems, ” says Weston. Customers often have a heavy historic investment in a particular software solution, such as from SAP, and when they are looking at web platforms, they need scalability and security. The trend, he says, is moving toward customers trusting open source solutions more.
“And there’s a recognition that commercially supported open source software is going to give you more value for money over some other larger enterprise grade solutions,” he adds.
Red Hat says that its products are within the budgets of smaller SMEs.
“Size of company isn’t as important as the diversity of applications,” Weston says. “Because of the cost structure, beause it’s not front licensing, it’s actually right-sized for the New Zealand market, so that enables even smaller niche integrators to take advnatage of the new product sets and start to target the medium enterprises, rather than the top end of town.”
From Weston’s perspective, the cost of services around open source solutions may still be prohibitive in the medium sized market.
“The software is certainly less expensive for smaller organisations but they might not have the budget to service it properly,” he says.