RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Red Hat is getting a tip of the hat from Wall Street.

Despite the Oracle launch of a rival Linux service and a partnership between Microsoft and fellow Linux developer Novell, the Hatters are continuing to grow. Even the departure last week of Marc Fleury, the fiery founder of JBoss, didn’t shake Street opinion. Even as Fleury walked out from Red Hat’s efforts to turn the recently acquired company and its Java expertise into a global player, Red Hat stock (NYSE: RHT) remains stable.

Yes, it seems, the many people who panicked and dumped Red Hat stock over the past few months wrote a financial obituary for the Raleigh-based firm much too soon.

For example, on Tuesday, analyst Katherine Egbert of Jefferies & Company issued a ringing endorsement of Chairman Matthew Szulik and his management team. To their credit, they didn’t panic under the Oracle and Microsoft-Novell onslaught. They moved the stock to the New York Stock Exchange, made other adjustments such as a stock buyback, moved ahead with a new channel sales strategy, and kept selling, selling, selling product.

“We have upgraded RHT shares to Buy based on what we think will be a strong finish to FY07 and a solid outlook for FYO8,” Egbert wrote, referring to Red Hat’s forthcoming fiscal ’07 earnings report.

“Oracle and the Microsoft/Novell partnership seems to be having little impact on RHEL sales,” she added. RHEL refers to Red Hat’s high-profile Enterprise Linux product. “The RHEL5 product cycle could also create near-term business momentum.”

The new release of RHEL is now available in beta.

In addition to the stock upgrade from “hold,” Egbert also lifted Red Hat’s stock target to $30 from $21 and increased earnings estimate for 2008 to $1.20 from $1.14.

Red Hat stock closed Wednesday at $24.23, down 4 cents, despite the upgrade. Still, that’s a long way from the 52-week low of $13.70 reached last October. The stock is also far from the $32.48 52-week high reached last May.

But at least for the moment, Red Hat is getting hot once more.