In a conference otherwise geared mostly to users and enthusiasts, Red Hat shined the spotlight on value-added resellers (VARs) for a brief moment during yesterday's Red Hat Summit keynote as it unveiled Red Hat Exchange -- also known as RHX -- the company's latest attempt to further open-source software beyond its Enterprise Linux products.
RHX is a Web portal through which users can browse, purchase and install a "shortlist" of third-party applications, which Red Hat has certified and promises to support. Fourteen ISVs are currently part of RHX, including vendors for enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), business intelligence (BI) and other software.
Software sold on RHX comes with a single, standardized service level agreement (SLA), according to Paul Cormier, Red Hat's executive vice president of engineering. Red Hat will also offer frontline support for every application on RHX, giving customers a single point of contact, said Matt Mattox, director of online services at Red Hat.
"In the event that you have a support issue, you come to Red Hat," he said.
But that support will not come at the expense of resellers and systems integrators (SIs), according to Mark Enzweiler, Red Hat's vice president of North American channel sales. Companies are still free to work through channel partners, he said, and those partners can in turn work with Red Hat.
"[Customers] will go to you. You're their partner," he said, adding that SIs and VARs can then escalate support calls to Red Hat through the RHX support agreement as needed.
The RHX portal will also include members of the channel, including VARs and distributors. Three companies -- Bell Micro, MSI and Carahsoft, a distributor targeting government -- are currently part of RHX, and Red Hat says it intends to grow this aspect of the network in the future.
Carahsoft's director of sales Natalie Gregory said that although it will take some time to hash out exactly the role SIs will play under RHX, the program will be beneficial in the long run. SIs with existing relationships with customers will still be able to serve in their consulting roles, and being relieved of the need to service first-tier software support calls could free them up to pursue larger projects, she said.
Enzweiler said Red Hat is trying to position itself as the "stewards" of open source for SIs and VARs who may not have expertise in open source but wish to provide it.
RHX partners, including ISVs and channel companies, are listed on the site and have a profile page that includes basic information on the company as well as user ratings. Enzweiler declined to specify what margins would be available to partners working through RHX.