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The year 2007 might be remembered as the year when Linux corporate desktops stood up to Windows Vista. Hewlett-Packard recently announced it is making large deals with Linux desktops and that these orders might be a signal of an important shift in the market.
But despite the huge progress the Linux community is making every day, some of the old challenges are still limiting the operating system from posing a threat to Microsoft on the desktop. Companies looking for a complete IT infrastructure alternative to Windows face some intricate challenges.
|SLIDE SHOW: 4 LINUX DESKTOPS TACKLE THE ENTERPRISE
The CRN Test Center examines the four leading Linux desktop products for the enterprise.
Windows is a platform that offers many configurations for workgroup setups and data centers and can run many specialized application servers. What's more, thousands of corporate applications are still written and supported by software vendors and developers that only work with Windows.
While Linux is chipping away at some of Microsoft's server market strongholds, the Linux desktops are still lacking many business productivity applications. Software vendors have to see that the opportunity for additional revenue streams through the desktop Linux market before producing Linux product lines—and this is happening at a slow pace.
For this review, the CRN Test Center evaluated offerings from the four leading Linux enterprise desktop alternatives: Linspire Five-O, Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, the newly released Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop 5.0 and Xandros 4 Professional.
A word of caution: The Test Center initially tried to install the distributions using the dual-boot option on a new Vista-based PC with an Athlon 64X2 dual-core processor and Asus M2NBP-VM CSM Micro ATX motherboard. But three of the four distributions failed to load properly even without using dual-boot. Only Xandros booted up, but it did not include a driver for the motherboard's Nvidia MCP51 Ethernet controller. And when booting into Vista after Xandros installed, Vista failed to load. During a detailed boot of Vista, engineers noticed that it could not load the crcdisk.sys driver. Vista was paralyzed. We suspect the problem was the lack of drivers.
After various attempts, engineers used an older AMD ATX motherboard running Windows XP, and all the Linux desktops worked correctly. Engineers also tested the OSes on a newer Intel HP xw4400 workstation and the desktops installed.
Our advice—run a complete backup before installing Linux with dual booting on a PC system running Vista. Before committing to Linux OS installation jobs, solution providers also should develop hardware surveys or purchase hardware capture utilities that can help them build hardware asset lists.
In addition to running the OSes, engineers looked at the various applications and partner programs available to VARs. Here's what we found: