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Red Hat claims 2,755 certified applications, up from 100 in 2003. The goal is to add more and in so doing draw more customers. As an added incentive to partners, Red Hat will share RHX revenues.

Importantly, Red Hat is not yet revealing the model by which revenue will be shared, indicating such crucial details are still being hashed out.

It is also unclear if any of Red Hat's partners from the dark world of closed-source software, notably Oracle, will be invited to join RHX. That depends on customer demand, Cormier said tactfully, although Red Hat will continue to work with Oracle.

But it is clear that Red Hat plans deep integration with some key closed source companies. Red Hat will rely on Samba, having hired three of Samba's five top maintainers including Samba Active Directory expert Andrew Bartlett, for the Red Hat directory to work with Microsoft's Active Directory for Windows. There are also plans to support Windows as a guest operating system on RHEL through an SLA commitment.

Oracle: the fight-back starts here

That brings us on to Oracle. Red Hat unveiled three so-called solutions encompassing storage, high-availability, systems management provisioning, identity management consulting and training for: data centers, database availability and high-performance computing. Red Hat will build systems for customers by drawing on its "domain expertise", according to chief technology officer Brian Stevens.

Red Hat has promised to save customers running clustered database installations like Oracle's Real Application Clusters (RAC) up to $200,000 per clustered database through a combination of RHEL's virtualization and dynamic resizing. Stevens claimed Red Hat is "leveling the playing field" against RAC.

Cool, but the stacks appear based more on a feeling that business must exist rather than any indication of actual opportunity. Red Hat does not have potential customers at this stage, and will rely on its own smarts rather those of integrators or consultants with proven skills in architecting systems serving datacenters, database or high-availability in highly be-spoke customer scenarios. Also, price has not been finalized, although these offerings will made available separately to the Red Hat subscription.

Red Hat is avoiding the price cuts feared by Wall Street to focus on value. Ironically, the price war could backfire on Oracle if Red Hat undercuts RAC. To be really effective, though, Red Hat still needs to go beyond competitive price and prove it's also got the credentials to build the kinds of clustered high-availability database or data warehouse systems that could really worry Oracle over the long term. ®

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