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Is Red Hat Interested in the Database Market?

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Red Hat (NYSE:RHT) is perhaps best known as the leading enterprise Linux vendor. While Linux is the core of Red Hat's business, their JBoss middleware business is also a critical component of Red Hat's overall platform play. As Red Hat gears up for its next era of growth, the most often asked question is: Where does Red Hat needs to go next? One potential area of expansion for Red Hat could be the database market.

"If you think about what makes up a platform, what you're seeing is that more and more components of functionality are getting sucked in," Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst told InternetNews.com. "We basically have our data services layer. which tries to do some degree of data federation. Will there be more stuff around that? Certainly there will be."

Whitehurst added that as there is an explosion of data there are increasing storage needs that Red Hat might get pulled into.

"I'm not necessarily a big fan of us being in the database business, but we have GFS and some other things already," Whitehurst said.

GFS is Red Hat's Global File System, which is a clustered system for storage. GFS came to Red Hat by way of the acquisition of storage infrastructure software firm Sistina in 2003 for $31 million.

Today Red Hat integrates database technologies from multiple sources into its platforms. Red Hat's Satellite management system, as well as Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV), use the open source PostgreSQL database. The Red Hat OpenShift Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) uses the membase NoSQL database.

Going forward, Whitehurst did not dismiss the possibility that Red Hat could potentially acquire database technology and/or a database vendor to help support its platform goals.

"When I say I don't want to be a database company, I'm saying that I don't want to be a SQL database company," Whitehurst said.

Whitehurst added that while the SQL database market is a profitable one for the existing vendors, it's not the type of market that he prefers to be in.

"When you generally look at open source or any new technology coming in, no one replaces what they already have," Whitehurst said. Taking MySQL as an example, it was because of the new use case for the LAMP stack that it became popular.

According to Whitehurst, the way to be successful is to find net new workloads that are coming along. In terms of whether Red Hat will acquire a database or storage company, Whitehurst would not specifically state whether Red Hat will or will not actually acquire anyone.

"But we would be very interested in a NoSQL type database or Hadoop type thing," Whitehurst said. "Those are interesting as they represent net new."

Hadoop has become increasingly popular in recent years as an open source technology for managing big data. While big data and NoSQL are interesting to Red Hat, taking on the incumbent database players is not.

"I think the idea of going head to head and trying to take share from SQL Server, Oracle and DB2 is a tough road," Whitehurst said. "A lot of our customers ask for it, but as we often say, are they just looking for 'column b' fodder to get their price down or will they actually migrate?"

"So we are looking for new types of workloads where we can actually offer something new and differential, that to me is much more interesting," Whitehurst added.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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