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Red Hat is answering competitors in the Linux world with an SOA alliance that potentially unites JBoss with an open source rival.

Systems integrator Bull is expanding an alliance with Red Hat by joining the JBoss community, where Bull will contribute to development of the middleware stack, and by becoming a strategic partner on the JBoss Enterprise Middleware Suite (JEMS).

The French company will also resell JBoss subscriptions and provide first- and second-line support for JEMS. The partnership was announced at JBoss World Berlin.

Bull jointly developed JBoss's rival open source Java application server JOnAS with Evidian, and which is part of the ObjectWeb Open Source Initiative.

The quid pro quo? Red Hat will strengthen its ObjectWeb participation and work with Bull on future development of the consortium - to create ObjectWeb version 2.0 - and interoperability between the JBoss community and ObjectWeb consortium. JOnAS was not mentioned by name, but the implication is that the two groups will focus on working together rather than phasing out JOnAS. ObjectWeb claims JOnAS been downloaded by 50,000 people.

JBoss said it is looking forward to Bull's participation in Business Process Management (BPM). Bull becomes JBoss' first strategic partnership in Europe to include open source research and development collaboration.

The companies' expended relationship and JBoss World come at a choppy time for Red Hat. In recent weeks Oracle announced Unbreakable Linux Network (ULN) to tease customers away using low-priced support, while the Microsoft and Novell deal on IP protection and sales potentially steers customers towards SuSE Linux and away from Red Hat.

Fallout from both events has led Wall St to believe that Red Hat is facing a tricky fourth quarter as customer investigate their new alternatives. Shares in Red Hat have reportedly traded at 36 per cent lower since ULN in October.

Red Hat is trying to bolster its presence outside of Linux through middleware.

The latest chapter in that strategy came this week as Red Hat used JBoss World to deliver a preview release of the JBoss Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) for use with JEMS to help customers build open source SOAs.

The ESB features a transformation engine, service registry, routing and gateways, plus support for multiple messaging services including FTP, http, email and JMS. The community release under GPL is due next month with availability under Red Hat subscription support in 2007. Also previewed was JBoss Application Server 5.0, which will be integrated with Red Hat Enterprise Linux. ®

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