Red Hat to release e-commerce suite

Linux vendor Red Hat Inc. today entered the e-commerce applications fray with a package it hopes will provide medium-size businesses with all the needed ingredients to bring their businesses online.

The new Red Hat E-commerce Suite includes a wide range of open-source components and services to help medium-size businesses, which are less likely to have in-house Web developers and experts, get everything they need at a price they can afford, said Charles Gold, Red Hat's director of product solution marketing.

Medium-size companies, which the company defines as those with 50 to 1,000 employees, are often unable to find what they need in a basic, low-end e-commerce package but can't afford to make the jump to expensive and complex suites such as BroadVision Inc.'s One-To-One Enterprise and IBM Corp.'s WebSphere, Gold said.

"We believe there is a significant gap in the market," he said.

The open-source suite includes the Interchange 4.8 e-commerce platform, which Red Hat acquired earlier this year when it bought Akopia Inc.; the Apache Secure Web Server; the new Red Hat Database, which was released in June; and the Red Hat Linux Version 7.1 operating system. Also included is the CommerceLauncher Web-based configuration tool to guide the installation and configuration of the suite, as well as support and updates.

The suite is priced at US$275 per month for a minimum of 12 months or for a one-year license at $2,995. The package will be available starting Aug. 22, but preorders will be accepted by the Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based company starting next week.

Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts, said the suite is well positioned to provide an affordable way for smaller businesses to start selling their wares online. "Most small and medium-size businesses do not have a Web presence" other than perhaps having online catalogs of their offerings, he said. "This would allow them to take the next step."

What has held such businesses back in the past, Kusnetzky said, is that they haven't had the on-staff expertise or the money to be able to afford trying to sell online. "This would be a low-cost and useful approach," he said.

Neal Goldman, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, said that by putting together all the needed tools in one box and adding services and support, Red Hat's new suite could capture plenty of interest.

"Many organizations don't like assembling [applications] from component parts," Goldman said. "If I was an enterprise user, I'd be picking the same pieces that Red Hat is assembling."

The components are "best of breed," he said. "That's a value and a good move."

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