Red Hat Warms Up LinuxWorld With Valentine Version 4 Launch

The unveiling of Red Hat Enterprise Linux v.4 during a press conference at the Prudential Tower in Boston Monday evening signifies a maturing of the leading Linux distribution and an arrow through the heart of its chief Unix rival, one Red Hat executive said. LinuxWorld Expo officially kicks off Tuesday.

"It is a defining milestone in the evolution of Linux into the enterprise, this is the defining moment," said Paul Cormier, executive vice president of engineering at Red Hat. "It's the beginning of the end of Solaris in the enterprise."

RHEL v.4 enterprise, advanced, entry/mid-server and desktop will be available within a week, Cormier said.

The Raleigh, N.C. company also said that it would extend Red Hat Network management services to support Sun Solaris. That support, designed to ease customer migrations from Solaris Unix to Red Hat Linux, will be available within a month, he added. Red Hat said the U.S. Department of Energy has deployed enterprise Linux globally, and he pointed to two other customers -- Orbitz and the Chicago Mercantile -- that have deployed Red Hat across their organizations.

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Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik missed the launch of v.4 due to his weekend return from India, where the company opened a support center last week.

But the company's top engineering executive focused attention away from the missing CEO and on the missing pieces in the Linux distribution that have been addressed in version 4, making it enterprise-ready.

Significant new features include integration of the year-old Linux 2.6 kernel, faster file access and I/O performance, support for open source security known as Security Enhanced Linux (SELinux) and for open source Firefox as the default browser, and 64-bit support for Intel Xeon and Itanium processors as well as support for AMD64, IBM Power, zSeries and s/390 and other x86 systems.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop 4 has also been enhanced for mainstream use with new wireless capabilities via support for Intel Centrino, support for the GNOME 2.8 interface, support for plug-and-play devices and out-of-the box integration with Microsoft Active Directory authentication and Microsoft Exchange connector, Cormier said.

Partners IBM, HP, Dell, Oracle, Intel and AMD, were on hand to celebrate the launch.

On Monday, Intel said it has begin shipping its upgraded 64-bit Xeon processor code-named Irwindale. RHEL4 will support Intel 32-bit x86, Itanium 2 (64-bit) and Intel Xeon with EM64T support as well as AMD64 processors.

Shane Wall, vice president and general manager of Intel's channel software operations, said Red Hat's newest distribution supports its existing 64-bit technology and Red Hat has pledged support for multi-core and forthcoming "Vanderpool" virtualization capabilities but those technologies will not be available for some time, Intel said.

"RHEL4 support is critical on the server side with Xeon," said Wall at the press conference, noting that the number of 64-bit users fall in the minority. "But 64-bit will only be a niche, for a long time."

Cormier said virtualization will be implemented across hardware, storage and operating systems and Red Hat will explore all of those "pieces" before moving forward. Red Hat will put into pilot testing a virtualization solution for Red hat Enterprise Linux in 2005 but there's no final date for availability.

"It's a big area, a very big area," Cormier said, noting the growing importance of virtualization to scale up the data center. Red Hat views V.4 as a significant milestone for the Linux distribution and a desktop-to-data center solution for enterprise customers.

Yet one financial analyst said it will likely have little impact on the company's finances because of Red Hat's business model.

"The official launch of RHEL4 is a mild positive in our view in that many of The more important features in the 2.6 kernel have already been back ported into [v.3]," said Dion Cornett, managing director of Decatur Jones Equity Partners. "Given Red Hat's subscription model, new product releases are not as material to revenue as they are for the typical perpetual license software company."