At a press conference at the JBoss World Berlin conference here, executives from Red Hat and JBoss held no punches in responding to the interoperability pact between Microsoft and Novell, and Oracles stated plans to deliver its own distribution of Linux—both moves viewed as attacks on the Red Hat/JBoss base.
Marc Fleury, senior vice president and general manager of the JBoss division of Red Hat, said the Microsoft/Novell deal is "more interesting and what they are trying to do is fork the legal support by saying they will not sue."
Yet, Fleury said JBoss knew when it was acquired by Red Hat earlier this year that "there was a high likelihood of an answer by IBM, Microsoft, Oracle" and others.
However, "the Microsoft one was always a legal threat, and its a lot more clever than the one from Oracle, which was a for-show move," Fleury said.
Moreover, Fleury said that when Red Hat sealed the deal to acquire JBoss last April, both he and Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik personally reached out to Novell CEO Ron Hovespian "immediately and tried to preserve that [Linux core] relationship, in response to Microsoft. But now I think the boys over in Redmond [Wash., where Microsoft is headquartered] are laughing their butts off" over making the recent interoperability pact with Novell.
Scott Crenshaw, Red Hats senior director of product management and marketing, said: "Our position here is that the reason that Linux has gotten such wide adoption and continues to grow so fast is because of the vibrancy of the open-source community, and we think that Red Hats commitment to the open-source innovation model is whats driven our leadership. So the notion of putting a tax on open-source innovation is something we dont consider an acceptable option."
Asked specifically how Red Hat would respond should Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer offer to do a similar deal with Red Hat, Crenshaw said: "If hes shopping that deal and he managed to find a company that would take it, its interesting to observe. But you shouldnt expect that Red Hat is going to show interest in that."
On the Oracle front, Fleury said JBoss brings a dimension to Red Hat that makes it the solid open-source choice, and that is its professional open-source heritage of offering bullet-proof support and services.
"Others are making claims, like Larry Ellison [CEO of Oracle], saying they can support anything because its open source," Fleury said. But, he noted, Red Hat is the enterprise Linux market leader and JBoss averages 60 to 80 percent of the contributions to its open-source stack. "We are the legitimate supporters of the open-source middleware stack," he said.
According to rumors that swirled around early this year, Oracle was interested in acquiring JBoss. The company also has been said to have been interested in acquiring Red Hat.
Asked if he believes Larry Ellison hates Red Hat/JBoss, Fleury said, "No, I dont think he hates us, but hes [ticked] off, I am sure. I dont see the Oracle announcement as that eventful. Well see what Oracle actually delivers on his promises. This is a classic attack through the press and investors."
Asked to describe why Ellison and Oracle made its Linux move, Fleury said: "Maybe hes [ticked] off because he didnt buy JBoss, or its a play to hurt our share price. … We are not here to analyze why hes doing it."
For his part, Fleury said one way for Red Hat to combat the Ellison strategy is to accelerate the companys push up the stack with more applications and services. "Thats one way to do it, but I dont make those decisions," he said with a smile.
Meanwhile, Crenshaw said for Oracle, Red Hat is the database giants fastest-growing platform.
Still, the Linux "product theyve announced is not Red Hat Enterprise Linux; theyve changed the code significantly," Crenshaw said. "Its a different product that will have to build its own ecosystem."
Crenshaw acknowledged that the market will have to figure out what to do once Oracle has actually delivered. In the meantime, he said Red Hat customers fall into one of three categories regarding the Oracle Linux play: A large number do not care, a smaller number are looking at the possible price advantages an Oracle distribution might provide them and are "curious," and another smaller group is "considering evaluating" the technology.
Yet, neither the Microsoft/Novell nor the Oracle move is going to alter Red Hats plans, Crenshaw said. "Red Hat has had to compete with hundreds of distributions and competitors, and the Oracle challenge should not be taken lightly," he said. However, "these challenges are not unusual for us."
Both Crenshaw and Fleury noted the SCO attack on IBMs Linux as an opening shot in the industry. But "SCO was a frail hack; Microsoft is a competent competitor," Fleury said.
Still, both Fleury and Crenshaw said Red Hat continues to have good working relationships with both Microsoft and Oracle. The "coopetition" between the various companies does not necessarily change, they said.
"We continue to work with Oracle with Red Hat Linux, and we continue to interoperate with Microsoft," Fleury said.