Red Hat offers Compaq-based e-commerce suite

The electronic-commerce market may be facing tough times, but to open-source software maker Red Hat Inc. that just means more opportunity for the little guys. The company announced Monday it is teaming with hardware maker Compaq Computer Corp. and system integrator Pioneer-Standard Corp. to provide an e-commerce suite for medium-sized enterprises.

"This is a great time for us. With contracting IT budgets, people are looking for value," Charles Gold, Red Hat's director of product solutions marketing, said Tuesday. "You're getting the functionality, the scalability, the customizability that one would typically associate with a very high-end, expensive enterprise package, but you're getting it at a much lower price point."

The software in the suite costs US$3,000 for a 12-month subscription; adding hardware at between $2,500 and $3,000, companies can have a full-service e-commerce system for less than $10,000, he said. This compares to anywhere from $50,000 to multiple hundreds of thousands for a high-end, proprietary suite. The software is available now in the U.S.; availability in other parts of the world could not be immediately confirmed.

"This is a mid-market solution," said Gold. "For really small businesses, this is going to be more functionality than they need. For a mid-sized enterprise, which has complex needs but doesn't have the budget of a larger enterprise, it's an ideal solution."

The package builds on the Red Hat E-Commerce Suite, which was introduced earlier this month, and includes the open-source e-commerce platform Interchange 4.8, the configuration tool CommerceLauncher, the Apache Web server, the Red Hat Database, and the Red Hat Network subscription service with software updates.

But why should e-commerce users consider open-source software rather than a big-brand-name package? Simple, said David Adams, Red Hat's senior director of engineering: Because the community of open-source users and developers makes for a better, more reliable product.

"It's the same reason that people want to use other open-source software: A mature open-source product -- one that has been, like Interchange, in development for many years -- has many, many people using it, many developers working on it. Interchange is currently in use by well over 10,000 users, and 1,000 developers are working on it actively," he said.

Red Hat is building on a trend by which open-source software is moving down the chain toward end users, Adams added.

"The earliest open-source products were very infrastructural ... used by people mostly working in the bowels of the Internet. Then products like Apache and Linux came along, a little bit less abstract, closer to the everyday user. As time has progressed, we're getting closer and closer to open-source applications that actual business people are going to be using."

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