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SAP/Red Hat deal: Adios, KVM?

Hot on the heels of the Intel/McAfee deal and the Dell/HP/3PAR bidding war comes more possible acquisition news: Rumor has it that SAP will acquire Red Hat.

Local Tech Wire, an IT blog based in Red Hat’s home state of North Carolina, reported on the SAP/Red Hat rumor this morning. Several Wall Street analysts came across the rumor yesterday, and Red Hat’s vaguely worded “product roadmap” announcement — scheduled for tomorrow — only bolstered the speculation more.

Virtualization clearly wouldn’t be the driving force behind an SAP/Red Hat acquisition. From a tech standpoint, Linux is a favorite among SAP shops, so there would be some natural synergies there, as they say. Or, like the Intel/McAfee deal, it could just make good financial sense.

But an SAP/Red Hat acquisition would definitely affect the virtualization market, even though SAP and Red Hat aren’t exactly leaders. Let’s take a look at where they stand:

  • Red Hat has placed all its virtualization chips on KVM. It was one of the most-talked-about subjects at this year’s Red Hat Summit, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 will support only KVM, not Xen. But the company is still playing catch-up in virtualization, and it’s not the easiest thing in the world to migrate from Xen to KVM.
  • SAP, meanwhile, has relied on partners to help customers virtualize applications, but it’s been slow going so far — mostly test and dev, not production environments. One thing SAP does have going for it is its partnership with VMware. To spur more SAP virtualization deployments, the company is bundling its software on VBlock Infrastructure Packages from VMware, EMC and Cisco Systems. And although SAP has never named preferred partners in virtualization before, there are indications that could be changing — with VMware at the top of the list.

So where would that leave KVM? It’s unlikely that SAP would break off its relationship with the virtualization market leader to go with a relatively new, unproven technology. SAP probably wouldn’t kill off KVM, but it doesn’t send a good message when even your parent company doesn’t use your own virtualization technology. Whatever KVM momentum Red Hat has built up over the past year or so would pretty much disappear.

Of course, the SAP/Red Hat acquisition is all speculation at this point. But these days, every vendor has some stakes in the virtualization ground, and it’s interesting to examine how every move — or potential move — could affect the market. News Editor Courtney Bjorlin contributed to this report.

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