Red Hat has given some insight into how it will develop the directory software it bought from Netscape division. But the company remains undecided about developing messaging and collaboration software that could form the basis of an open-source alternative to Microsoft Exchange Server.

Red Hat purchased the Netscape assets, including the Netscape Directory Server and Netscape Certificate Management System, at the end of 2004 and rebranded them with the Red Hat name. It is in the process of releasing the source code of the directory server.

Red Hat director of identity and security solutions Mike Ferris has now said the company also plans to release the Certificate System under an open-source licence, although no timetable has been set.

Red Hat also picked up a number of other server products in the Netscape deal that be used to produce a competitor to Microsoft's Exchange messaging server, analysts say. Alhough these products have languished since they were acquired by AOL in 1998, an Exchange alternative does not exist in the open source community, according to Anne Thomas Manes, research director with Burton Group, and they could be used to just that end.

"I think that the open source community would probably jump at the opportunity to get a good foundation for a strong message server," she said.

However, Ferris was tight-lipped about any such plans. "It's something we see as a viable technology," he said. "The question is, 'Is the market ready for it?'"