Red Hat has unveiled the Red Hat Directory Server and simultaneous release of the source code for the core of the product under general public licence (GPL).
The final product should be ready "within weeks", said Red Hat's Mike Ferris, product marketing manager for identity and security. The full source code will be released on the same day.
A directory server manages user names and access policies. The software is certified for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, HP-UX running on HP Integrity and HP 9000 servers, as well as Solaris on Sparc.
The software is based on components of the Netscape Security Solutions division acquired by Red Hat from America Online in September 2004. At that time, Red Hat promised to release the source code, allowing anyone to use and tweak the product free of charge.
This release also sees Red Hat expand its software portfolio with middleware. Last year, the company unveiled an application server that is, in part, based on Objectweb's Java Open Application Server and Tomcat, part of the Apache Jakarta Project.
"We are further building out the open source architecture," Red Hat chief executive Matthew Szulik told delegates in his keynote address at the event.
"We are continuing to make a greater contribution to the open source community. There is no doubt in my mind that open source is the contemporary development model for the 21st century."
The company aims to gather a developer community around the Phedora version to drive future development. It will sell a Red Hat-branded edition bundled with support for $15,000 per server per year.
By certifying the software for Sparc systems running Solaris, the company is going after some of the old iPlanet customers, product manager Ferris said. iPlanet was a joint venture between Sun and Netscape that was formed to build software for ecommerce applications and included such software as an application server and directory server. The venture was dissolved in 2001.
Sun purchased AOL's shares in the company and has since continued development of the software. It is currently bundled under the Java Enterprise System.
Red Hat in turn acquired some of the venture's technology in last year's deal with AOL. The software forms the foundation of today's Red Hat Directory Server.
"Although Red Hat's software could appeal to organisations that run old versions of the iPlanet product, few users will currently prefer the software over Sun or any other commercial offering," said Gary Hein, vice president and service director for application platform strategies with The Burton Group.
"If I was an IT administrator today, I would go after some of the commercial alternatives. You would have to be real adamant about open source or the Red Hat product to go with it today," he said.
But even though Red Hat is late and trails behind commercial alternatives, Hein expects the open source community to rally behind the product and let it catch up.
"Three years from now, it's likely to be a better product for your Red Hat environment than some of its competitors," he said.
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