Novell Inc. is fairly new to the Linux distribution game, but it hit a significant milestone today with the release of SuSE Linux 9.1, the first commercial Linux software based on the recently released 2.6 kernel.
Version 9.1 comes in personal and professional editions, both based on the latest incarnation of the Linux kernel, which was released in December. The 2.6 kernel was built with improved memory management, threading, scalability, security and better 64-bit support, all of which is supposed to drive Linux use deeper into enterprise IT infrastructures.
The professional edition arrives with five CDs, two DVDs, an administration guide and 90 days of support. It supports x86 architecture, 32- and 64-bit processors from AMD64 and Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology. It is also bundled with a desktop suite of applications, including OpenOffice, Evolution and development tools that enable a user to run SuSE Linux 9.1 as a technical workstation, a Web server using Apache or a database server.
"The product is primarily geared to those who want the latest open source technology, like support for the 64-bit architecture and the high-end processor chips," said Charlie Ungashick, director of product marketing for Novell. "The 2.6 kernel is able to run a Web or database server three to five times faster, which would definitely appeal to the enterprise."
Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software at Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp., said this is an evolutionary stage for the SuSE Linux platform and some enterprises might take to it.
"It comes down to what people are doing," Kusnetzky said. "The memory management, I/O improvements and support for 32- and 64-bit computing can be very important to some."
"If I'm at a desktop running OpenOffice and Mozilla and that's the length and breadth of what I expect the client to do, then this is not going to be a big deal," Kusnetzky said. "But if I'm running some sophisticated modeling software because I'm a financial analyst or running a content-creation tool that will grab all available memory, then those people are going to like what this does for them."
Enterprises need to be aware of some inhibitors, Kusnetzky said, namely application availability for Linux, vendor support and whether an organization supports Linux.
SuSE, which was acquired by Novell late last year, said it is still on track to release a 2.6 version of SuSE Linux Enterprise Server this summer, Ungashick said, making it the first to market with an enterprise server based on 2.6 as well.
Meanwhile leading Linux distributor and SuSE's top rival, Red Hat Inc., said it would not break its 18-month release cycle for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and won't have a 2.6 version ready for release until early 2005.
SuSE Linux 9.1 Professional also supports Samba 3, which integrates Linux hosted on Windows domains and gives Linux systems access to Active Directory. Other elements include Quanta Plus, a Web development tool, and KDevelop 3.0 with C, C++ and Java support. In addition, the UML modeler Umbrello facilitates object-oriented software development.
SuSE Linux 9.1 Personal, meanwhile, offers a live CD enabling users to boot Linux from the disk without installing it, which allows a user to check for hardware compatibility. The second disk installs the software.
Ungashick said Novell's acquisition of Ximian Corp. last year pays off in this announcement. This is that transaction's first fruit on the desktop.
SuSE Linux 9.1 will be available in early May and will sell at $29.95 for the personal edition and $59.95 for the professional one.
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