One More Reaction to IBM's Acquisition of Red Hat

Now that the dust has settled around the explosive announcement that IBM will be acquiring open source software provider and longtime Java Community Process (JCP) leader Red Hat, I wanted to share the reaction to the deal of one of the keenest (and most fearless) observers of the Java universe.

Gartner analyst Anne Thomas went toe-to-toe with the Java EE community last year over the fate of enterprise Java, which is now developed and maintained by the Eclipse Foundation as Jakarta EE. She took heavy fire from that community over a research note she co-authored with contributing analyst Aashish Gupta ("Market Guide for Application Platforms").

In that research note the authors asserted, among other things, that Java EE has not kept pace with architectural trends and digital business initiatives, that Java developers are demonstrating a clear preference for lightweight frameworks over Java EE, and that Java EE is not an appropriate framework for building cloud-native applications. They also advised those responsible for modernizing an enterprise's application infrastructure to "develop a strategy to deal with the obsolescence of Java EE and other three-tier application frameworks."

I asked Thomas about the implications of this blockbuster acquisition in an e-mail, and she noted that combining the IBM and Red Hat teams eliminates some conflicts between the two organizations' enterprise Java activities, but also warned of an almost inevitable decline in the total amount of resources allocated to supporting enterprise Java.

"IBM and Red Hat are the two largest contributors to the Java platform, other than Oracle," she said, "so instead of two organizations with potentially conflicting agendas, there will be one. This ensures better synergy, but reduces competition. And I anticipate that IBM will reduce the total number of people dedicated to supporting the Java community."

The synergy is certainly there. IBM has long been a leading user and contributor to Linux, which undergirds Red Hat's top products, including the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) OS. And IBM and Red Hat are active members of the Java community. Both companies have claimed that the leading roles they play in the JCP will not be affected by the merger.

Thomas also put the acquisition in the context of some of the arguments she and Gupta made in that now infamous research note.

"Traditional Java EE is a relic of the past," she said. "New development now occurs at the Eclipse Foundation. And both IBM and Red Hat have been active in that community. Although the immediate work there is focused on the current Java EE release, expect future efforts to be focused on the microprofile and cloud-native frameworks. Again, combining the IBM and Red Hat teams should eliminate conflict, but also reduce total resources allocated to supporting enterprise Java."

IBM is acquiring Red Hat in a $34 billion stock deal. Big Blue said it will be the company's most significant acquisition and the most significant tech acquisition of 2018. The deal represents "a landmark moment for both companies and is a major step forward in IBM's ongoing focus on high-value business, the transformation of our portfolio, and our leadership in the emerging era of AI and cloud."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].