A handful of Linux vendors this week will introduce new products and features that should make the operating system more attractive for use in enterprise networks.
Leading the charge is Red Hat Software, which develops the leading commercial version of Linux. The company is introducing Red Hat Linux 6.1, which is based on the 2.2.12 kernel and features graphical installation tools for deploying desktop (GNOME and KDE), server or custom interfaces. Red Hat also added load balancing for TCP services and a graphical update tool.
Red Hat officials say Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) support is yet another key feature in Version 6.1.
"LDAP is a baby step for us," says Erik Troan, director of engineering for Red Hat. The company has bigger plans to use directory technology to scale its product, he says.
Another company, Cybernet, is rolling out three preconfigured network appliances -- a firewall, file server and Web server -- that run on Red Hat software and Intel hardware. The company's NetMax appliances, which ship this month, feature a
Web-based setup interface that installs an operating system and other server software. The interface hides Linux's command-line interface. The NetMax Web server features the Apache Web server and SendMail e-mail server.
Separately, development tool vendor Inprise is trying to fill the Linux applications gap. Early next year the company will go into beta testing with a native rapid application development tool for Linux, code-named Kylix. The tool is a component-based, drag-and-drop environment with support for multitier databases and the Internet. Key to Kylix is a Linux version of Inprise's visual component library. The library is designed to be compatible with Delphi and C++ Builder to make it easier to port Windows-based applications to Linux.
"One thing holding Linux back is the lack of applications," says Michael Swindell, Linux product manager for Inprise. "With Kylix we're talking about the development of large enterprise-class and business applications."
While all of these products help move Linux a few steps closer to the enterprise, many users are still cautious.
"I don't have Linux in my budget or plans for next year," says Brook Smith, network administrator of the Forum Financial Group in Portland, Maine. Smith, who has one Linux box he uses for file storage, says the operating system is not ready for
day-to-day use. "We're concerned about its scalability and clustering," he says.
"Linux is at the starting gate," says Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst with International Data Corp. (IDC). "Shipment numbers look good, but on the revenue side you see a clearer picture of its enterprise value." According to an IDC survey, Linux server revenue last year was $31 million, compared to $2.5 billion for Unix and $1.4 billion for Windows NT.