SuSE Linux is proposing a service program for middleware products based on open code, which could help enterprises expand their use of open-source software beyond the Linux operating system more easily.
"There are a lot of new open-source products in the middleware market but it's difficult for enterprises to know who is doing what and, in particular, how to obtain service," said SuSE chief executive officer Richard Seibt.
"The service that we're discussing with the middleware suppliers is for us to provide 'one-face-to-the-customer' support and maintenance for their open-source products in addition to ours."
Under the proposed scheme, SuSE would include open-source middleware offerings in its product portfolio and guarantee that customers signing a service contract would receive patches, new releases and more.
"This is not about competition but rather about collaboration," Seibt said. "Our aim is to enable open-source middleware in enterprises - that is, to make it safe and easy for them to use."
The bundling of open-source products comes in response to customer demands for simplified service.
As part of the service, SuSE would ensure that all middleware applications running on Linux work without bugs. "If a bug surfaces, we fix it," Seibt said. "Customers don't have to waste time finding someone to handle that."
SuSE has already held talks with several providers of open-source middleware.
"The response has been good; there's definitely interest in collaborating," Seibt said. "But, of course, the devil is in the details. We will need to agree on various issues, including service fees."
Over the next three to six months, SuSE hopes to announce the "next step" for its middleware service program, which he referred to as a "win-win" proposition for both SuSE and suppliers of open-source middleware products, including The Apache Software Foundation, JBoss Group and Zope.
SuSE is also to join the ObjectWeb consortium, which is focused on open-source middleware. It will have privileged access to the community of developers of many middleware components and platforms, including JOnAS (Java open application server).
ObjectWeb, which was founded by Bull, France Télécom and the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control, promotes alternative software to proprietary products focused on e-business, enterprise application integration, grid computing and enterprise messaging. Red Hat joined the ObjectWeb consortium last month.
As for SuSE's continued independence, Seibt would only say that the company continues to be a rumoured candidate for acquisition by a number of companies, including Novell.
"There are lots of rumours out there, and there will be many more," he said. "We're doing well, and that attracts attention."
John Blau writes for IDG News Service