Red HatRed Hat will need to walk a fine line in the middleware market. Even as the open source company continues to build its channel, Red Hat today opened its wallet to acquire a middleware consulting firm that specializes in JBoss applications.

The move comes at a key time for Red Hat. The company has conceded that its JBoss acquisition, made in 2006, hasn't met financial expectations. Today's purchase of Amentra, which employs roughly 120 middleware consultants, could help to accelerate JBoss customer engagements.

Although it had been privately held, Amentra appears to be a fast-growing organization. The company was among the top 300 businesses on the 2007 Deloitte Technology Fast 500, a ranking of the fastest growing technology, media, telecommunications and life sciences companies in North America. Amentra grew 518% percent from 2002 to 2006, according to an October 27 company release.

Now, For the Challenge

As it digests Amentra, Red Hat will need to balance the needs of its own consulting team with those of its partners. Plenty of companies -- including chief rival Novell -- have stumbled badly when they leaped from software into consulting.

But the 120-person Amentra acquisition, The VAR Guy notes, is a manageable size for Red Hat to digest over the next few months.

Ultimately, Red Hat hopes to command 50 percent of the server market and 50 percent of enterprise middleware workloads by 2015. A blog entry from SeekingAlpha, one of The VAR Guy's favorite financial destinations, considers Red Hat's goals quite lofty.