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Red Hat will certify open source applications running on its Linux distribution with three subscription-based services that potentially challenge start-ups.

The Linux distributor will certify and support a catalogue of open source software on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), grouped into three buckets called the web application stack, Java web application stack and enterprise Java stack.

Red Hat will charge $599 per server per year for each of the services, scheduled for launch during the first quarter of 2006.

Red Hat is launching the services to ease development and delivery of software based on an increasingly popular swathe of open source web, tools and infrastructure applications running on RHEL. Red Hat's services potentially identify and eliminate conflicts between the different software elements.

According to Paul Cormier, executive vice president of engineering at Red Hat, certified stacks will help developers get to market faster. The services are also designed to give developers confidence that the integrated stacks will work.

Red Hat's move potentially puts the industry's leading Linux distributor into competition with start-ups SpikeSource and SourceLabs, which provide integration, configuration, testing, maintenance and support services for open source.

SpikeSource and SourceLabs run software through a battery of tens of thousands of tests. SpikeSource's certification covers the Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/PHP/Python (LAMP) stack, Tomcat, Struts and Hibernate. SourceLabs has certified versions of Apache Axis, Struts and Hibernate on BEA's WebLogic and IBM's WebSphere, and Apache, MySQL and PHP on RHEL and the Linux kernel.

Oracle president Charles Philips, meanwhile, indicated earlier this year that the database giant would also enter the market for testing and certification of open source applications. Oracle will likely follow Red Hat in certifying for its own platform, unlike SpikeSource and SourceLabs which are trying to carve out a pure services model that is platform- neutral.

Like the start-ups, Red Hat is tackling LAMP with a few additions. Red Hat's web application stack covers LAMP on RHEL with the option of choosing the Postgres open source database. The Java web application stack adds the Apache Tomcat serverlet and JSP container, while the enterprise Java stack adds full support for ObjectWeb Consortium's JOnAS application server. JOnAS is the basis for Red Hat's own application server. ®

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