Red Hat acquires FeedHenry - are the mobile and traditional middleware twain starting to meet?

  • 25-Sep-2014

Red Hat, the vendor that popularized the “open source as a service” model -- most notably for the Linux operating system and later on, for the JBoss middleware software -- has announced that it will acquire FeedHenry.

Red Hat says FeedHenry will add mobile capabilities to JBoss and will be leveraged in OpenShift, their platform-as-a-service offering for traditional development (as opposed to “mobile development").

From an overall industry perspective, one of the trends we called out in the latest edition of our mobile research was, “Mobile Middleware – still separate from traditional middleware.” For any enterprise mobile use case that is even mildly complex, you need middleware services – user management, data management, integration with enterprise systems, security and many other services.

Nevertheless, in the long term as mobile app development matures, we can expect the boundaries between traditional middleware and mobile middleware to blur.

Another driver of this trend is that software (infrastructure) vendors like IBM, Oracle, and SAP have strong “traditional” middleware capabilities that they want to leverage for mobile apps too.

The Red Hat-Feed Henry acquisition should therefore be seen an example of a long-standing middleware vendor trying to add mobile capabilities.

Guidance for Enterprise Buyers

As our Enterprise Mobile Technology subscribers know, FeedHenry is one of the vendors we evaluate in that research report. FeedHenry's name stems from its early focus on RSS software, and after a popular hurler Henry from their native Ireland, where they are mostly based. In fact, it’s my research on FeedHenry for the first edition of our Enterprise Mobile Technology report that made me aware of the sport of Hurling – somewhat like field hockey but faster – 3,000 years old, and still wildly popular in Ireland.

FeedHenry soon pivoted to enterprise mobility software and currently sells what it calls the Mobile Application Platform, combining hybrid app development with a cloud-based middleware. This category of software is sometimes referred to as "MBaaS" or mobile back-end as a service. We prefer mobile middleware.

Some of you may remember that FeedHenry created a small kerfuffle recently when they questioned Gartner’s wisdom about the mobile app dev platforms Gartner evaluated -- a feisty response to their exclusion in the the analyst firm's 2 x 2 grid.

What puzzled me more was FeedHenry’s recent foray into developing pre-packaged applications (e.g., field workforce management application) - it made me wonder if they were shifting away from their core platform strategy. In hindsight now, their approach may have been with an eye on Red Hat’s services-oriented business model.

Red Hat releases software as open source and makes money from services and support. So, we can expect them to open source FeedHenry (which under the hood already uses many open source components like Node.js, the server-side JavaScript engine). As we note in our review, FeedHenry struggled to expand beyond its European home and did not have a lot of success in cracking the North American market.

Under new owners Red Hat -- who are much bigger and have greater mindshare in the developer community -- that could potentially change. But as with all M&A, benefits to customers will take a while to materialize.

Meanwhile, you should continue to evaluate FeedHenry and it’s fit for different use cases, relative strengths and weaknesses against other mobile middleware vendors. Consult our research for all this and more.

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