Middleware Stacks and the Cost of Going it Alone

IBM & Novell partner on new middleware bundle and highlight the real value of integrated stacks: support.

Before Red Hat acquired JBoss, IBM and Red Hat had little reason to collide in the middleware market. That all changed last month when Red Hat launched the Red Hat Application Stack, bundling together RHEL, the JBoss app server with Tomcat, JBoss Hibernate for object/relational persistence management, Apache, and your choice of a database in one of two flavors: MySQL or PostgreSQL.

This week, IBM fired back with a Linux application stack of their own and a partnership with Novell: the Integrated Stack for SUSE Linux Enterprise. The stack integrates SLES 10, WebSphere Application Server Community Edition, DB2 Express-C, and the Centeris Likewise Management Suite on IBM’s System x servers.

And lest we forget HP, they too have offerings in this space called Open Source Middleware Stacks (OSMS). HP bills OSMS as building blocks of tested configurations that allow you to select the OS and applications that are a best fit for your enterprise environment. OSMS configurations are available for both the Proliant and Integrity server lines.

Middleware is suddenly a hot topic again. And for the enterprises navigating these new, integrated stack waters, the choices can be rather complex.

Notice that we didn’t mention any servers when describing the RHEL stack. Prior to acquisition, JBoss was a direct sale business while Red Hat sees more than half of their sales coming though resellers and OEMs. As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Red Hat is probably still in channel education mode and, if memory serves, has not named an OEM partner for the JBoss-based stack.

If they can get the direct sale model down, they may not need to tie up to any one OEM. The flexibility of working with a variety of server configurations could turn out to be beneficial because, in a very real sense, application stacks are less about technology than they are about support.

Support is both the business model and real value behind integrated stacks. Yearly subscription costs for the IBM Integrated Stack start at $349 if you choose the DIY model. Add in a year’s support on a 2-CPU server and the costs rise to $13,867. Likewise, Red Hat’s basic Application Stack starts at $1,999 and tops out at $8,499 as you apply support costs, according the company’s website.

I’m all in favor of the eruption of these Stack Wars because support for open source applications is a very good thing.

I can’t imagine you could drive Linux adoption any better than by giving enterprises one throat to choke when something goes wrong in a complex, open source software environment. It puts the problems in the hands of the experts, lowers staff costs for IT departments, and ultimately reduces development and downtime.

$349 is a fairly compelling price point for anyone who’s accustomed to a first line of support being a SourceForge mailing list, but for large enterprises concerned about downtime and want to bring more Linux into their business, $13,867 is a lot more affordable than a Linux expert.

Bryan Richard is the Editorial Director of linuxdlsazine.

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