Specifically, Red Hat is acquiring Netscape Directory Server and Netscape Certificate Management System. Red Hat plans to open-source both server programs within the next six to 12 months.
Netscape Directory Server is an LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) server. Like other LDAP servers such as OpenLDAP, it provides network directory services. In turn, these are used to provide the infrastructure needed for centralized network management.
Netscape Certificate Management System provides a security framework designed to authenticate the identity of users and ensure privacy of communications in networks.
Other enterprise server companies such as Sun Microsystems Inc. and Novell Inc. offer similar directory and certificate services as part of their enterprise operating-system offerings. Red Hat also will incorporate this software into its business Linux, RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux).
"Directory Server and Certificate Management System will enable the integration of the desktop with a networkwide set of computing services that up until now had only been available from a small set of proprietary vendors," Paul Cormier, executive vice president of engineering at Red Hat, said in a statement.
"Giving open-source developers another alternative to OpenLDAP, for example, may foster even more creativity, innovation and interoperability with incumbent proprietary enterprise solutions," said Michael Dortch, IT infrastructure management practice leader at the Robert Frances Group.
"Given the growing importance of directory and identity management solutions in enterprises of all types, the deal may create new opportunities for Red Hat to come calling upon those enterprises with interesting things to show and tell," Dortch said.
Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software at IDC, said Red Hats move will broaden its information architecture. "Red Hat is assembling a set of technologies that would allow them to offer a complete, Web-based information architecture for transactional, knowledge management and other business-critical functions for medium and large organizations."
In addition to the software itself, Red Hat will be hiring the programs development teams of fewer than 50 programmers, according to Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik.
Red Hats acquisition of the Netscape Security Solutions assets is expected to be completed in the companys third fiscal quarter of 2004. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Red Hat has already paid AOL $20.5 million for the software and may pay an additional $2.5 million if enough customers order the software by April 30.