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Red Hat sews Posix threading into new release

Michael S. Mimoso, Editorial Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Threading improvements to the latest incarnation of Red Hat Inc.'s Enterprise Linux platform should make Java application server and database users take notice. The addition should help narrow the gap between Unix and Linux for big business.

Red Hat's inclusion of a native Posix threading library in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, released Wednesday, increases multithreading applications from 1,200 threads to 32,000, Red Hat said. The performance boost is one of several enhancements to the enterprise-grade platform, which includes support for symmetric multiprocessing, more memory and security improvements. Red Hat has also used the same code base for RHEL3 as it has for its other enterprise products, from the desktop to the mainframe.

"Customers want scalability and stability," said Red Hat program director Mike Ferris at the Enterprise Linux Forum conference. "We are building from the same code base. ISVs can focus on one set of code for the desktop all the way to the mainframe. If there are issues, when they are fixed on one architecture, they are fixed on all architectures."

Red Hat is promoting Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 as the first phase of its Open Source Architecture, announced last month. OSA is an infrastructure that includes layered, add-on services on top of the operating system. RHEL3 unifies those services and precedes virtualization and management enhancement, due in quarterly installments going forward.

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Hat's chief technology officer, Michael Tiemann, said that Open Source Architecture is the way to go for enterprises, and he used Amazon.com as a prime example of an enterprise that turned a profit because of savvy design practices based on open source.

"Amazon revenues steadily grew, but they weren't making a profit until they switched to Linux," Tiemann said. "In their filings [to the SEC], they said their switch to Linux was the difference. I pity the enterprise that does not have a technology exit strategy [as Amazon did]. Enterprises have to be able to adopt new technologies, whatever those technologies may be."

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, based on the 2.4.21 Linux kernel, supports seven hardware platforms: Intel X86 and Itanium, AMD Athlon and AMD64 Opteron, and IBM's pSeries and mainframe zSeries and S/390 platforms.

Red Hat uses a 12- to 18-month release cycle for its Enterprise Linux platform, and the company said it will support RHEL3 for five years.

"We are focused on shipping a stable platform. The 12 to 18 months gives ISVs, IHVs and OEMs a basis for rolling out applications in a mature manner," Ferris said.

Al Gillen, systems software research director with Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp., said the extended support cycle is of utmost importance to enterprises, especially those that choose to skip version upgrades.

"Enterprises are certainly not upgrading every three or four months. On the flip side, however, the model is becoming no different than what the Unix vendors have done for a long time," Gillen said. "Solaris upgrades are on a 12- to 14-month upgrade cycle. Customers don't move to every version. In fact, 18 months may even be too soon. If there's anything not tied to the kernel version you're using, there may be too much regression testing to do in the new release, and enterprises won't move."

Red Hat's Ferris said RHEL3 will be offered on a subscription basis that includes Red Hat Network updates and support services and which ranges from $179 for the workstation version to as much as $18,000 for the mainframe versions. Current Red Hat 2.1 customers will have access to RHEL3.

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