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OS/400 Edition
Volume 12, Number 13 -- March 31, 2003

Red Hat Rolls Out Enterprise Linux Line

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

Red Hat has expanded its lineup of business-class Linux support and services to make a more appealing mix of products and prices for companies that want to deploy Linux on their workstations and servers. The company's Advanced Server was announced at the end of March 2002 and carries a hefty $2,499 annual price tag for support, but the new Linux Enterprise Server ES and Server AS offer less expensive options. The question now is when they will be available on the iSeries.

Red Hat, like other commercial Linux distributors, does not and cannot charge for the Linux and other open-source programs that it distributes, but rather must rely on installation support, technical support, and other services as a source of revenue. Red Hat distributes the source code of all the variants of Linux that it has ever created for free on its Web site, and the company will continue to do that with the new Enterprise Linux distributions the company announced last week.

The Advanced Server edition of Red Hat 7.2, announced almost exactly a year ago, is based on a Linux 2.4 kernel, but it includes some of the features for supporting improved eight-way symmetric multiprocessing that were in the Linux 2.5 development version of the Linux kernel, and that are expected to be imminently announced for the Linux 2.6 production kernel. Red Hat correctly saw that the core server market was aimed at four-way and eight-way application and database server machines, and that it had better get better support for these machines in the field if it wanted to compete against the various Unixes and Microsoft's Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server. Perhaps as significant, Red Hat's Linux Advanced Server included two-node failover clustering right out of the box, just like Microsoft's Windows 2000 Advanced Server does.

There are now three different versions of Linux that Red Hat will distribute for commercial computing. The Advanced Server edition has been recast as Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS (perhaps because the company didn't want to use exactly the same naming conventions as Microsoft). Red hat has added two additional Linux versions and five different support levels (with their own unique pricing) in last week's announcements. The two new versions of the Enterprise line of Red Hat Linux are based on the same core Red Hat 7.2, with the Linux 2.4 kernel that is inside the former Advanced Server. They just have stripped down features, processor support, and technical support that is commensurate with their lower prices when compared with Advanced Server. Red Hat is still pushing Linux 8.0 and Linux Professional 8.0, a more recent version of Linux for PCs and workstations that is also based on the Linux 2.4 kernel, onto home and commercial desktops, where Microsoft's Windows XP is the preferred modern equivalent. All Enterprise Linux versions come with a one-year subscription to the Red hat network, as well as five-day, 12-hour tech support services. Only the former Advanced Server (now Enterprise AS) offers tech support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The first new Linux from Red Hat is Enterprise Linux WS, the workstation version of Linux that the company is pushing against Microsoft's Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP Professional on Intel-based workstations, and against various RISC/Unix workstations from Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Silicon Graphics Inc., and others. Enterprise WS will support uniprocessor and two-way workstations, using either 32-bit Pentium or 64-bit Itanium 2 processors and up to 4 GB of main memory. This software does not come with network server applications (DHCP, DNS, and so forth) installed, and it does not support high availability clustering. Red Hat says that it is aiming Enterprise WS (short for work station or workstation server, I guess) at software developers who are creating code for the Enterprise servers, as well as at users in oil and gas exploration, electronic design automation, and other specialized technical areas where Unix and Windows workstations dominate.

Enterprise Linux ES (which presumably is short for enterprise server) similarly supports uniprocessor and two-way workstations, using 32-bit Pentium and up to 4 GB of main memory, but it does not support 64-bit Itanium 2 processors. This version of the software does have the network server applications enabled, but it still does not support two-node server clustering for high availability.

While Enterprise Linux AS is certified on a lot of hardware and on plenty of software right now, and all the third-party application software that works on the AS edition will run on the WS and ES editions, Red hat does not expect the new editions to be certified on hardware from major workstation and server suppliers until the fourth quarter of 2003. That doesn't mean customers won't take a do-it-yourself approach, as they often do with Red Hat 8.0 today.

The Basic edition of Enterprise Linux WS comes with 90 days of installation and configuration support and a one year subscription to the Red Hat Network for $179. This is the same price as Red Hat 8.0 Professional. The Basic edition of Enterprise Linux ES has the same features and costs $349. The Standard edition of Enterprise WS costs $299, and it has one year of Red Hat Network support with 12-hour, five-day support and four-hour response time on support calls. The Standard Edition of Enterprise Linux ES costs $799 and of Enterprise AS costs $1,499 with the same level of Red Hat Network support. (There is no Basic edition of Enterprise Linux AS.) The former Advanced Server is known as the Premium edition of Enterprise Linux AS, and it offers one-hour Red Hat Network tech support response on a 24/7 basis for $2,499. This price or support level has not changed.

Exactly when or if Red Hat will support Itanium 2 processors on two-way workstations and servers running a 64-bit version of Enterprise Linux ES is unclear, but with Itanium 2 servers taking off in HPC environments and poised to become more commonplace in commercial environments, with the "Madison" and "Deerfield" versions of the Itanium 2 due early this summer, it is hard to imagine that 64-bit support for this entry server release will not follow shortly.

Red Hat Linux for iSeries, for IBM iSeries and zSeries machines, is based on the Red Hat 7.1 base code, which is two steps back from the distribution level in the new Enterprise Linux editions for Intel servers. If Red Hat wants to be consistent--and we think it needs to be--these new ES and AS editions have to be available consistently across all platforms, including the iSeries and zSeries platforms from IBM. While there is nothing wrong with the versions of Linux that Red Hat has for the iSeries, they simply do not have the modern code that went into the Advanced Server edition, and now into the Enterprise Linux ES and AS editions. The Advanced Server code base has significant improvements in symmetric multiprocessing, I/O, and threading support that almost certainly will make Linux run better on an iSeries. Consistency is important, and so is sending a message that the iSeries is not a second-class citizen in the Linux world.

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Timothy Prickett Morgan

Managing Editor
Shannon Pastore

Contributing Editors:
Dan Burger
Joe Hertvik
Kevin Vandever
Shannon O'Donnell
Victor Rozek
Hesh Wiener
Alex Woodie

Publisher and
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Jenny Thomas

Advertising Sales Representative
Kim Reed

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