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August 22, 2001


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Red Hat E-Commerce Suite

Open Source Software Plus Commercial Tools, Services, & Support

Mike Angelo -- 22 August 2001(c)

In an interesting marriage of Open Source Software and real world realities, Red Hat Linux started shipping its new e-commerce, Linux-based software and service package today, August 22, 2001. The price tag on this commercially packaged collection of Open Source Software is $2,995 for a minimum one-year subscription.

Some Open Source Software (OSS) advocates no doubt will be upset by a nearly $3,000 price tag for a shrink-wrapped package of free, OSS software. However, if Linux and other Open Source Software is to thrive in a marketplace dominated by huge corporate and somewhat monopolistic giants, some money is going to have to change hands -- there has to be (profitable) corporate involvement

Red Hat just might have achieved a darn good balance between the Open Source Software philosophy and spirit on one hand, and making a well-justified and necessary return on its investment on the other hand.

People and organizations that have the expertise, inclination, and motivation to ferret-out, install, maintain, and administer the free, Open Source software packages bundled in Red Hat's new E-Commerce Suite may so do. However, People and organizations that themselves do not have the expertise, inclination, or motivation to ferret-out, install, maintain, and administer the free, Open Source Software packages also may derive the benefits of these software products by paying Red Hat its fee of $2,995 for doing all the work for them.

More about commercializing Open Source Software later on. First let's look at just what Red Hat's new E-Commerce Suite is and what's in the box.

What's in the Red Hat E-Commerce Suite Bundle

In a Press Release dated August 13, 2001, Red lists the software packages, features, services, and value-added items included in its new Red Hat E-Commerce Suite:

[August 13, 2001 Red Hat Press Release Excerpt]

Features of the Red Hat E-Commerce Suite include:

  • Interchange 4.8, a brand new version of the most mature and robust open source, e-commerce platform available today. With over 5 years of development in the open source community, more than 10,000 developers participating, and thousands of sites using the technology, Red Hat Interchange delivers robust functionality, reliability, and performance;
  • CommerceLauncher, a Web-based configuration tool which rapidly guides users through the installation and configuration of the entire E-Commerce Suite, enabling users to get up and running in a matter of hours;
  • Secure Webserver powered by Apache;
  • Red Hat Database, an open source database solution based on PostgreSQL 7.1 and optimized for web applications and Red Hat Linux 7.1;
  • Red Hat Network, Red Hat's online subscription service, which dramatically reduces the cost of deploying and managing an infrastructure through continuous software update and management services for open source offerings.

Additional added value services in the Suite include:

  • Integration, optimization, and testing of proven open source technologies: Red Hat Interchange, Red Hat Database and Red Hat Linux. Documentation for Interchange, Red Hat Database, Red Hat Linux and Secure Webserver.
  • 12 months of product updates and upgrades.
  • 12 months of Red Hat network for Red Hat Linux.
  • 3 hours of developer consulting during the first 30 days.
  • 30 days of telephone-based support.
  • 12 months of web-based support.

In addition, Red Hat will offer several new options for enhanced E-Commerce support and services. These include:

  • Multi-tiered support options for the implementation and use of the E-Commerce Suite;
  • Professional consulting, to help businesses with the creation of their Web site from the planning stages through execution;
  • Managed hosting services for hands free management of E-Commerce Suite sites;
  • A range of training programs aimed at enabling technical and business professionals to get the most from the E-Commerce Suite.

The Red Hat E-Commerce Suite's Audience & Its Competition

In an e-mail interview, we asked Melissa London, Red Hat's Director of Corporate Public Relations about the target market for Red Hat's E-Commerce Suite and the products with which it will compete.

MozillaQuest: What is the target market for Red Hat's E-Commerce Suite?

Melissa London: Mid-sized companies -- 50-1,000 employees -- both business-to-business and retail

MozillaQuest: Why would someone that runs an e-commerce site wish to use Red Hat's E-Commerce Suite rather than use Windows 2000 Server or Windows 2000 Advanced Server?

Melissa London: These Windows products don't have a commerce component.

MozillaQuest: How would you match the Red Hat E-Commerce Suite against Microsoft's comparable product?

Melissa London: Microsoft has a product called Commerce Server 2000 that runs on NT and Win 2K. A customer would choose the Red Hat E-Commerce Suite because of its rich functionality, scalability, and customizability. Also, the Red Hat E-Commerce Suite would have a vastly lower total cost of ownership than a similar Microsoft system

MozillaQuest: What other products will Red Hat's E-Commerce Suite be competing against when it is released?

Melissa London: High-end enterprise systems ((Broadivision, IBM))) Low end packages ((Miva Merchant, Mercantec)) Custom development --

Red Hat E-Commerce Suite fills the gap between the low and high-end solutions without the support issues associated with custom development. This gap is filled with many many mid-sized companies who have less budget than the enterprise players require, but need more features, scalability, customizability, than the low-end vendors can provide. This is a significant but underserved segment of the market---open source lets us serve this segment in a unique and powerful way.

Commercial Open Source Software Issues

MozillaQuest: All the additional applications that are added to Red Hat Linux 7.1 in Red Hat's E-Commerce Suite appear to be open source programs. So, why would someone that runs an e-commerce site wish to purchase Red Hat's E-Commerce Suite for the $275/mnth ($2995 for the one-year minimum) rather than just download and install these additional applications?

[Note: CommerceLauncher is not a free download. It is a customized configuration tool built by Red Hat for its E-Commerce Suite.]

Melissa London: [The Red Hat E-Commerce Suite] is meant for individuals who would rather buy pre-configured, tested, and optimized systems than download components to build their own system. This reduces time and complexity and improves performance in many cases.

The benefit to the E-Commerce Suite is not in the bits themselves, but in:

  • the value that Red Hat has added in terms of integrating, optimizing and testing proven open source technologies
  • the services and documentation that are included
  • the GUI-based installation and configuration wizard that allows relatively non-technical users to get up and running very quickly
  • the subscription that provides regular updates, patches, and upgrades to the system

Acquiring Red Hat E-Commerce Suite

You have a choice of two routes to take to acquire the Red Hat E-Commerce Suite or a reasonable facsimile of it:

  • You can take advantage of the ready-to-go, out-of-the-box, fully supported Red Hat E-Commerce Suite priced at $2,995 for a minimum one-year subscription ($275/mnth).
  • Or you can ferret-out and download the free, open source, software components that do the e-commerce work, set it all up as a system, and then administer it -- yourself.

Ordering the complete, full-service E-Commerce Suite is easy. Just follow the Order the Red Hat E-Commerce Suite link in the Resources section at the end of this article.

Trying to put your own, free, e-commerce package together takes more effort, skill, and dedication. If you do not already have Red Hat Linux 7.1 you will need it for starters.

You can download the basic (Standard) Red Hat Linux 7.1 for free from the Red Hat FTP site or any of the many mirror sites. However, it is some 900-MBs. So you might want to spring the $40 for the commercially packaged Standard Red Hat Linux 7.1 product. For more information about Red Hat Linux 7.1, please see our article A Red Hat Linux 7.1 Preview: What's Under the Newest Fedora.

Next you will have to download Interchange 4.8, the Apache secure Web server, and PostgreSQL. The easy part of that is that the information and download links for those products are in the Resources section below.

Then all you have to do is get all that stuff running well and working together nicely. After that, all you have to do is to figure out how to use your do-it-yourself e-commerce system, maintain it in good working order with all the most current patches and fixes, and administer the operation without any support.

If you are a computer wizard, likely you can have a great e-commerce system up and running within a few hours of downloading all the free software. On the other hand, if you are not a computer wiz, you might well find yourself wishing you had purchased the E-Commerce Suite from Red Hat instead of going the do-it-yourself route.


E-Commerce is an important part of today's Internet landscape. The Red Hat folks have put together a nice, cost-effective bundle of e-commerce software products, support, and service that they say is ready-to-go right out of the box.

By selecting free, open source, software for its E-Commerce Suite, Red Hat has kept the production costs of its E-Commerce Suite low and Red Hat is passing the savings on to people and organizations that choose to buy the Suite.

Red Hat has applied its expertise in putting the Red Hat E-Commerce Suite together and in adding the configuration tools, service, and support. In so doing, Red Hat is making the underlying open source software available to end-users that otherwise realistically would not be able to use this powerful collection of open source software.

We have not tried the Red Hat E-Commerce Suite, yet. This article is based upon Red Hat press releases, information on the Red Hat Web site, and discussions with Red Hat people. However, it certainly appears that the Red Hat folks have put together another easy-to-install, easy-to-use, and powerful open source product.


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Copyright 2000, 2001 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved

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