RALEIGH, N.C. – Now that Larry Ellison, perhaps Red Hat’s biggest nemesis other than Microsoft, has directed Oracle to buy Sun Microsystems, does IBM buy Red Hat?

Or does Red Hat become the “Switzerland” of software, as its CEO wants?

Some sort of Red Hat deal is – again – the speculation on Wall Street. In fact, TheFlyOnTheWall Web site and a Barron’s blogger speculated this week that a rally in Raleigh-based Red Hat shares this week is a reaction to the Oracle-Sun deal that left IBM on the outside looking in for open source opportunities.

Of course, IBM execs sniff that they didn’t like the smell of Sun’s financials and intellectual property enough to buy. But if an Oracle-Sun deal means more competition for Big Blue in the hardware and software space, might it scoop up Red Hat for its Linux open source expertise and its growing JBoss suite?

“It’s not hard to get the logic” of an IBM-Red Hat combination, wrote Barron’s Eric Savitz. “Oracle is bulking up in open source, acquiring MySQL via its pending deal for Sun. So maybe IBM will want to strike back by taking a big share of the Linux market. At least, that’s the theory. Whether there is any there there, I have no idea. I would note, however, that Red Hat is a frequent subject of speculation, and previously has been linked to potential deals with Cisco and Oracle. And so far, there has been smoke, but no fire.”

Red Hat Chief Executive Officer Jim Whitehurst told the U.K.’s CIO Web site this week that the Oracle-Sun deal could help the Hatters. He also said Red Hat has no plans to buy anyone as a counter to Oracle’s move.

"We were a bit surprised like everybody else [by the deal]," Whitehurst told CIO. "We’ve got good relationships with both and we assume that will continue going forward."

He told CIO that red Hat wants to be the “Switzerland” for enterprise software – in other words, a partner to all.

Red Hat shares closed Thursday at $17.96, down 41 cents. So for the moment at least some of the buyout talk must be cooling. Otherwise RHT would be soaring toward its 52-week high of $24.84. But also remember this – Red Hat shares were a bargain in November at $7.89. Two good quarterly profits reports have helped drive the stock back up. Is speculation playing a role, too?