Red Hat Inc., the Raleigh, N.C.-based software vendor known for its Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) operating system and the open source Fedora Project, will release the latest version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux -- version 4.0 -- at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in Boston on Feb. 14.
The announcement is the first major upgrade to the company's signature product since October 2003, and is also the first instance where the company has made the operating system fully supported on the Linux 2.6 kernel.
While the release of a new version of an operating system is big news for any company, it is especially important for Red Hat, who has lost some ground to Waltham, Mass.-based Novell Inc., whose SuSE Linux 9 has been fully supported on the 2.6 kernel since August 2004.
Nick Carr, enterprise product manager for Red Hat, said RHEL4 will offer enhancements to a security infrastructure and a 64-bit environment, but he anticipates that growth will come with the full support for the 2.6 kernel.
"In general the 2.6 kernel is cleaner, fresher -- there have been a lot of eyeballs on it in the last year," Carr said.
The 2.6 kernel is at the heart of the Linux operating system and performs its most essential functions. Additionally, version 4 will include a modification of Linux's I/O subsystem, as well as a new version of the Logical Volume Manager hard drive partitioning software.
For customers migrating to Linux for the first time, Carr said Red Hat provides compatibility libraries that will allow applications to move over to RHEL4 without incident.
Red Hat is also trying to get all business partners and ISVs moved over to fully supporting RHEL4 when it is officially released next month.
More Linux desktop aspirations
The Linux operating system has found its niche in the server side of the enterprise, but it has had considerable difficulty infiltrating the desktop space held in a stranglehold by Microsoft Windows. With the release of RHEL4, Red Hat is firing another shot at the desktop. Two versions of RHEL4, Desktop and WS, are tailored for large scale deployments on general purpose desktops and technical workstations, respectively.
"We see big companies in the IT industry looking to put Linux on their desktops. Recently, IBM announced that all its desktops were being migrated to Linux. This is also true in the government space," Carr said.
When RHEL4 is officially announced next month, current RHEL subscribers will have immediate access to the code, Carr said. Also, according to company spokeswoman Leigh Day, Red Hat does not expect to change pricing with RHEL 4.0, although an exact number was not available.