Red Hat acquires rights to Netscape software…

The news have hit the street a few days ago: Red Hat has acquired the rights on Netscape Server products, and among them, Netscape Directory Server.

Vincent Eynard already blogged (in French, no translation available yet) on it and raised many questions.

“They’re buying antique software,” Joe Keller said, adding that Red Hat’s tactical shifts are confusing. “They used to find the best of open source and bring that forward. Now they’re buying the oldest of commercial software and making it open source.”

It’s true that Red Hat has acquired the rights to the software but what they didn’t acquire was:

  • A customer base. Currently AOL has almost no enterprise customers outside their own portfolio.
  • Engineering or marketing leadership: They don’t have any of either skill set left. Sure, engineers who were left on the way would be please to work again on Directory Server if there is commitment to the product, but most of them have moved to other areas.
  • Market credibility. Netscape hasn’t been a player in this space for a long time.

Anyway, the software is old and the market has moved. What customers want is not just a directory server but a robust Identity Data Service. Which is what the Sun Java System Directory Server Enterprise Edition, a product which includes not only the directory server, but also a proxy server for high-availability, security and client interoperability, AD synchronization and an impressive resource kit, delivers today.

I’m not sure I understand Red Hat strategy with this acquisition, but I’m curious to see what will be their position with regards to OpenLDAP which is already part of their platform, and how they are going to manage to open source some software that has non transferable patents (such as Directory Server). And if they succeed to open source it, I’ll be watching people’s discussions about the code that I wrote more than 3 years ago!