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Now that Linux is comfortably entrenched in clustered high-performance computing environments and along the periphery of enterprise systems, running Web as well as file and print servers, the world's leading Linux distributor wants to take the operating system to the next level. Red Hat Inc. took another step further into the data center Wednesday with the release of its Enterprise Linux 3 open-source operating system.
Red Hat's stated goals through next year are to continue improving its enterprise operating system to run on high-end servers and to consolidate its operating systems onto a consistent architecture. Enterprise Linux 3 includes Native Posix Threading Library, which improves the operating system's performance when running applications with multiple threads operating at once. It also features scalability improvements, including support for larger symmetric multiprocessing memory and input/output configurations. These improvements take into account the fact that many Linux systems are run as part of clusters, says Brian Stevens, Red Hat's VP of operating system development. "This requires improved management, since you may have more systems once you move to a Linux cluster."
Enterprise Linux 3 is also written to a single code base, which improves code stability, maintainability, and security, Stevens says. The new version also supports a wider variety of hardware platforms, including those running Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s 64-bit-compatible Opteron processor and IBM's iSeries, pSeries, zSeries, and S/390 servers. Enterprise Linux continues to support Intel x86 and Itanium platforms as well.
With Enterprise Linux 3, Red Hat has also expanded its basic operating-system offerings to include file-clustering software and developer tools. The file-clustering software supplements the basic clustering capabilities already built into Linux.
Red Hat is doing a lot to remove things that have been an impediment to Linux in the past, IDC research director Al Gillen says. "Customers are going to want off-the-shelf applications that are commercially supported," he says. "And it's really nice to get these from the same company that you get the operating-system software."
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 is available now as part of an annual subscription that includes Red Hat Network and services. Current Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscribers can upgrade now via Red Hat Network, while customers buying through Red Hat partners will be able to get version 3 of Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS, ES, or WS on preconfigured hardware platforms before year's end. AS is designed for servers with more than two processors and that run databases or large enterprise apps. ES is tuned for single- or dual-processor configurations running Web or file and print servers. WS is the operating system for single- or dual-processor workstations.
Pricing for Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS starts at $1,499 annually on an x86 platform and runs as high as $18,000 annually on an IBM mainframe. Pricing for ES and WS on an x86 platform starts at $349 and $179, respectively. Standard pricing for WS on an Itanium-based or AMD Opteron-based workstation is $792.
Red Hat is doing what it needs to do in order to expand relationships with customers and find new ways to generate revenue. "The pieces are falling into place," Gillen says. That's not to say Linux is ready to replace the existing critical systems in which companies already have a large investment. Adds Gillen, "We don't see Linux being used as a high-end replacement for large Unix servers."
Dell said Wednesday that it's supporting the launch of Enterprise Linux 3 by offering the operating system on its PowerEdge server line and its Precision workstation line.
Dell will factory-install two versions of the new system--Enterprise Linux AS and Enterprise Linux ES--on its four-way and single/dual-processor PowerEdge servers, respectively, in February 2004. Dell Precision workstations can be ordered with Enterprise Linux WS pre-installed next month.
Dell also says it will sell Red Hat training and certification courses to its customers, who would receive the training at either their own site or at a Red Hat training center.