Serving up a subscription Linux
Michael Tiemann, CTO, Red Hat
Red Hat Linux 7.1, released for downloading Monday, is based on the latest kernel, or essential core, of the Linux operating system. Kernel 2.4 came out in January and is just now being adopted for commercial use.
The new version of the operating system is designed to run on servers containing up to eight Intel processors, said a company representative. Red Hat Linux 7.0, which came out last September and was based on an older kernel, could run on eight-processor servers but performed far better on boxes containing four or fewer processors, she said.
While the new features and services will likely add to the growing acceptance of Linux in the corporate marketplace, it is but one step in a long road, said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software research at IDC. Most corporate buyers still use Linux for limited functions, such as running Web servers.
"The Linux distributors have come a considerable distance since 1992 and 1993," he said, "but at the same time it still has not achieved the status of being a mainstream OS in all markets."
Red Hat Linux 7.1 also permits each server to handle up to 64GB of memory, far more than previous versions.
The new OS can provide better protection against attacks from viruses such as the Ramen worm through Red Hat's Software Manager subscription service, the company said. Through Software Manager, Red Hat automatically notifies customers of updates, patches or software bugs and can install any necessary fixes.
The service works as a potential bug guard because customers often fail to install antivirus and security software. A patch to guard against the Ramen worm, for instance, existed six months before publicized outbreaks.
Subscription services are also one of the tools Red Hat believes will be instrumental to its future. Since Linux software can be downloaded for free, Red Hat and other open-source companies believe their revenue will largely derive from consulting, support and other services.
Although many of the improvements center on the server market, Red Hat 7.1 also contains improvements for the desktop. The graphical interface has been improved, and the new software allows devices to be plugged in through a USB port while the PC is running.
Pricing on the new OS is tiered according to the level of service provided. The standard Red Hat 7.1 Linux package costs $39.95. For that, customers can run the software on one machine and get 30 days of Software Manager service.
The deluxe package, which costs $79.95, provides for Software Manager service and free phone support for 60 days on five machines. Meanwhile, the professional package expands support to 10 computers for 90 days and includes additional software.
"The release of Red Hat Linux 7.1 and the first in a series of Red Hat Network subscription services makes it easy for organizations to quickly realize the benefits of open-source computing," Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik said in a statement.
Linux was second only to Microsoft in terms of shipments in 2000, Kusnetzky noted. In 2000, Linux accounted for 27 percent of all server operating systems shipped, according to IDC's preliminary data, up from 24 percent in 1999. Microsoft saw its share grow from 38 percent to 41 percent.