Red Hat covers all bases

By Maggie Biggs, InfoWorld |  Operating Systems

The current economic downturn has forced business and IT leaders to focus on technology strategies that are forward-thinking yet budget-minded. Open-source solutions are well-suited to today's market conditions because they are typically more economical than commercial software and because they incorporate technological advances and bug fixes faster than their commercial counterparts, thanks to an open and ongoing development process.

In particular, the newly released Red Hat Linux 7.1 by Red Hat Inc. is a solid alternative in enterprise settings, especially when reducing costs is as important as increasing functionality. A number of improvements in Version 7.1 make this release of Red Hat Linux more compelling than ever.

For starters, IT managers can deploy Red Hat Linux onto all three tiers of the enterprise. The release supports hardware ranging from 486-based systems to SMP (symmetrical multiprocessing) platforms, covering everything from laptops and desktops to middle-tier servers and back-end database systems. In addition to working on newly deployed systems, Red Hat Linux can be used with existing hardware, allowing you to preserve past investments.

Red Hat Linux 7.1 compares favorably to rival solutions such as Windows 9x and Me, Windows NT, and Windows 2000. Even after factoring in the cost of software licensing, training, support, and administration, Red Hat Linux lowers the investment needed to maintain server and end-user systems.

This release improves the cost/benefit ratio in several respects. It's easier to install and use than Version 7.0, provides better support for laptops, adds new support for USB devices, and works with larger memory sizes and multiprocessor systems.

New security features, including multiple security levels and firewall configuration during setup, also add to the product's value. Furthermore, upgrades to major system components, including the GNU Compiler Collection, the Mozilla open-source Web browser, and the Gnome and KDE graphical user interfaces, are solid improvements over the 7.0 release.

To put Red Hat Linux 7.1's new capabilities to the test, we implemented it on all three enterprise tiers in our lab. On end-user, middle-tier, and back-end systems alike, the OS proved highly capable, flexible, and easy to set up, manage, and use, earning our Deploy recommendation.

Report from the front

Our test environment included a variety of systems, ranging from Windows 98 and Windows 2000 to Solaris and AS/400 (iSeries). Starting on the end-user side of the equation, we loaded Red Hat Linux on several Sony Vaio and Dell Latitude laptops. In addition, we installed the 7.1 release on several IBM, Dell, and Compaq desktop systems.

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