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Red Hat Pushing Linux Onto Workstations

The open-source vendor's also branching out into vertical markets like telecom.
Linux continues to move out of the workshop and into the workplace, and Red Hat wants to move with it. Early next year, Red Hat will make its Advanced Server Linux operating system run on workstations and add features that appeal to vertical industries including telecom, retail, and research.

Among Advanced Server's new features expected during the first quarter will be greater compatibility with the video drivers required by users of electronic-design automation and digital-content creation applications. Red Hat also says its operating system will support mission-critical, telco carrier-grade Linux apps next summer.

"The time is right," for Red Hat's vertical-market strategy, according to senior Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio. "A lot of carriers today are looking to upgrade their infrastructures."

Red Hat's goal is to create a Linux distribution--the vendor's own packaging of the Linux kernel plus service and support--that better meets the needs of telcos, which depend upon highly reliable and available applications to deliver voice, data, and wireless services. To that end, Advanced Server will get improved application portability and performance, support for Posix-compliant threading, diskless blade systems, increased system responsiveness, advanced debugging and systems analysis, and additional high-availability clustering capabilities. Later next year, Red Hat says, it will add point-of-sale and high-performance computing features as well.

Of course, Red Hat's goal is to displace Microsoft and Unix operating systems, but as Apple Computer can testify, software vendors first have to write apps for an operating system. Electronic-design-software company Synopsys Inc., for example, sells software for Linux and endorses Red Hat's plans to expand beyond servers. More independent software vendors have to follow Synopsys' lead.

"You've got to get the ISVs on board; that's where Apple and Novell went wrong," DiDio says. Customers will need to have more than one or two applications to choose from.

Red Hat hasn't yet announced how these new features will affect pricing for Advanced Server.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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