Red Hat's (NYSE: RHT) Q4 2013 earnings disappointed investors. But here's a riddle for channel partners: How many other software ecosystems can you find where sales are still growing nearly 20 percent annually? Plus, Red Hat is investing in storage, cloud computing, management and Big Data technologies -- areas that could provide more long-term growth opportunities for channel partners -- despite apparent concerns from Wall Street.

For its Q4 2013:

  • Revenue rose 17 percent to $348 million.
  • Net income was $42.9 million, up from $35.9 million in Q4 2012.
  • Red Hat continues to lean more heavily on channel partners -- across the cloud, storage, middleware, virtualization and Linux ecosystems -- to drive revenues.
  • CEO Jim Whitehurst said Red Hat now supports more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies, while deferred revenue exceeded $1 billion for the first time.

That sounds impressive -- but not impressive enough for investors. Red Hat's stock fell more than 7 percent in after-hours trading, according to Yahoo Finance.

Among the challenges facing Red Hat: The company is far smaller than rivals like VMware and Microsoft. And in many circles, customers and partners still consider Red Hat mostly a Linux player -- rather than a diversified open source business company. 

The VAR Guy isn't pressing the panic button. Red Hat still enjoys double-digit growth. And as the company starts its fiscal year 2014, it's a safe bet that demand for newer offerings like Red Hat Storage and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) will accelerate. But so far, investors seem to be saying those products won't quench their thirst for ever-growing profits.

That seems to be a growing theme in the IT market, where Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) recently delivered disappointing results and VMware (NYSE: VMW) faces growing competition in the virtualization market.