Red Hat had a big week last week, launching its Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL 5) platform and Red Hat Exchange (RHX) partner program.
But that's where the fanfare ends -- at least when it comes to Red Hat's latest desktop offering.
After a first glance at Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Desktop, CRN Test Center engineers weren't impressed. Though Red Hat offers a highly competent desktop product, its default productivity applications are too simple. The product should be more sophisticated for an offering bearing the "enterprise" label, the Test Center believes.
The Raleigh, N.C.-based Linux distributor is still emphasizing server-level products over desktop software and functionality. The desktop bundle seems more like a network edge server. By only including a Java Virtual Machine, Red Hat is completely ignoring open-source .Net corporate applications and software. And according to Red Hat, the company has no plans to include open-source .Net products.
Red Hat's Enterprise Desktop productivity suite is the same toolset used on its standard desktop and is comparable to the ones offered by Linspire and Novell. The Enterprise Desktop comes with OpenOffice, Samba for printing to Microsoft printers, the MySQL database and other productivity products.
The RHEL 5 Desktop brings a new provisioning module that allows solution providers create different desktop configurations based on any group of users. Solution providers can use the provisioning module to control new software and upgrades pushed to desktops. Once a group has been created, software and user groups are selected, and the provisioning process takes over and manages all the installations.
Provisioning is part of Red Hat's new remote monitoring service called Command Center, which will allow solution providers to monitor desktops remotely. The company has also been expanding its enterprise application stack by offering an enterprise Global File System to cluster servers and Xen virtualization technology that integrates with the RHEL 5 product line.
Red Hat offers a remote and a local provisioning configuration for desktops. The company recommends the Satellite provisioning server for VARs that are monitoring desktop systems and running patch updates. With the Satellite server, VARs can manage multiple customers from a single location. Another option is to use the Proxy Server, which allows VARs to manage desktop applications while the network entitlements remain controlled by Red Hat's remote management service. Auto updates are also managed that way.
RHEL 5 Desktop integrates with authentication and identity modules. With Active Directory, the same Kerberos credentials used by Windows users can be transferred to Red Hat users.
To serve enterprise customers, Red Hat's Xen virtualization option for the workstation allows up to four guest operating systems. Corporate developers can use the desktop as a development and test environment with the virtualization software. Client/server software can be tested right on desktops as well.
For the past few months, Red Hat has upgraded its certified engineering classes to teach solution providers how to connect Active Directory with Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktops. Red Hat recommends that partners have at least one or two certified engineers on staff.
While many corporate Linux vendors are integrating online software purchasing services into their products, Red Hat is leaving it up to customers to find and buy new software products on third-party sites. Red Hat encourages VARs to make separate deals with commercial Linux software vendors instead of using the Red Hat catalog.
With the new channel program, Red Hat announced a new MDF program for partners. However, the company so far hasn't provided all the details.
Due out later this year, RHX is slated to feature applications from a range of commercial open-source vendors. Red Hat will sell RHX wares, handle subscription billing and provide front-line support.