It's IBM's Move: More musings on the Oracle Unbreakable Linux flap

If Oracle is going after the model, and not the company, then IBM -- and again, oddly, the other global systems integrators -- will need to come to open source's ... errr, Red Hat's, aid. Their future is services, even as Oracle bets that it can live on business applications licenses long enough to hollow-out the open source business model.

Now that Red Hat has placed its bet that Oracle's impact in the Linux market will be modest, by pledging not to get into a price war with Redwood Shores, what's next for Red Hat/JBoss?

Chances are that Red Hat will now double-down on middleware and come back at Oracle by attacking its ability to price for Fusion et al. Of course, that also could impact IBM's ability to price for WebSphere et al.

HP is fine with a middleware price war, as is Sun, given that the former has little middleware to sell and the later wants to give it all away, anyway. BEA may feel the pain most and first. All eyes are on the Oracle-Red Hat debacle.

Do we have the equivalent of a yacht race, tacking metaphorically between Angel Island and Alcatraz with our tall, fast boats? Get all the sheets up, lads! Whose keel is best designed for these choppy waters? Who has the most wind in their sails for this leg of the journey?

I say race because the Oracle Linux-Red Hat JEMS face-off amounts to: Who can cut the other off first, and most? Will Oracle's ability to affect the Linux pricing environment come quicker than Red Hat's ability to undercut the pricing model for middleware? Who will come to either Oracle's aid or Red Hat's cause, publicly or surreptitiously?

This logic, of course, only runs its course as long as Red Hat remains a standalone company, and is not bought at its current depreciated state by IBM or Oracle (or others ... Dell?). Would that BEA-Red Hat/Joss thing finally make sense? Will this drive Sun into Oracle's arms? Wow, did the deck ever get reshuffled.

Assuming that Red Hat remains independent, it may have a shoot-for-the-moon play here. But it will need partners. At stakes are whether open source as a business model survives the next six months. Because if Oracle can ride the GPL to hijack a Red Hat distro, what prevents it from cherry picking among other open source distros up and down the stack?

Oracle, or other GPL-enabled raiders, can use their legacy revenues (from DBs in Oracle's case) and new revenues (from business applications, ditto) to smother any open source project they feel is a threat. Oddly, Oracle's Linux price cut could slow open source's advance by making it less attractive as a business for the commercial-open source vendors. Now that the use of open source by commercial vendors to disrupt their competitors is about played out, what next? They may want to slow open source's advance, that's what. That's what this is largely about.

IBM could have done this years ago, and decided not to. It made a bet on open source, for open source. Will it back that up now that its burgeoning middleware revenue may suffer? A relevant  question to gauging IBM's move is to better understand Oracle's intents. Is Oracle doing this just to smack Red Hat, that is as a tactical mischief move? Or is Oracle actually dismantling the notion of a viable, standalone open source company model? Will Oracle repeat or extend its distro shenanigans?

If Oracle is going after the model, and not the company, then IBM -- and again, oddly, along with the other global systems integrators -- will need to come to open source's ... errr, Red Hat's, aid. The SIs' future is services, even as Oracle bets that it can live on business applications licenses long enough to hollow-out the open source business model.

Pretty much either way Red Hat will need to come out swinging on middleware, and use its installed base of Linux and low-touch sales and distribution methods to do it. They could, for example, say to their Linux accounts that they get full JBoss and JEMS support for free for two years, if they are an Oracle Fusion licensee (or other Oracle-directed middleware price attacks). SAP could even help them by joining in and helping on support and integration?

The big question is what will IBM decide to do. How aggressively will IBM assist Red Hat? Will IBM save open source, or sit by and watch Larry Ellison do their dirty work? In any event, the middleware space -- commercial and open source -- is now up for grabs. Will open source as a business model survive the carnage?

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