Red Hat Upgrades Enterprise Linux Desktop - InformationWeek

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7/21/2006
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Red Hat Upgrades Enterprise Linux Desktop

The new version of Red Hat's desktop Linux offers better graphics; supports Open Office 2.0 and the OASIS file format, in addition to a new Access-like database application; and improves compatibility with Microsoft Office, the vendor says.

The desktop under development also matches the focus of Vista and Novell's Linux Desktop 10 in several ways. It offers improved support for managing and searching files, printing, security, wireless connectivity and power management.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 desktop's file manager, for instance, offers integrated search support, template support and performance improvements, according to the Red Hat document. It also integrates directly with instant messaging and e-mail and allows uses to share public directory over the local network.

The software also offers improved wireless support via the inclusion of a default NetworkManager that automatically connects the desktop to known networks. It also will offer an integrated network notification to applications so that applications such as Evolution and Firefox go offline when the network is disconnected, the company documents said. Additionally, RHEL 5 will support WPA/WEP and offer a fully integrated VPN support.

That's not all. Kernel support for ACPI, improved power consumption and full userspace power integration top the list of power mangement improvements in version 5. With userspace integration, for example, applications can detect the power status.

The Linux desktop also offers better printing support via a new system-config-printer system that "talks" IPP directly to other Unix servers or remote printers, and works in a stateless environment, Red Hat says. Moreover, support for Common Unix Printing System 1.2 in the upgraded desktop provides network server defaults and detects SNMP-based network printers and a plug-in system that supports third party drivers. On the security front, RHEL 5 offers Smartcard token and built-in PKI encryption functionality as well as the ability to authenticate at log-in time, authenticate with kerberos. It can also be used with GNOME-based keyring to authenticate to WAPs, VPNs and web sites, Red Hat said.

Some open source services firms such as Optaris and Akibia declined to comment on this story because neither has a Linux desktop practice at this point. But even without all the bells and whistles of Windows, customers that have become more confident running Linux applications on the server are now starting to migrate to the desktop, say some solution providers, including one that is promoting Novell's Linux desktop.

"I think Linux just had to get good enough to be a viable alternative to Microsoft people to seriously consider moving in that direction and with SLED 10.1 Linux is good enough " said Paul Anderson, president of Novacast, Santa Barbara, Calif. " We have a half a dozen customers who were simply waiting for SLED to be released for them to start their migrations. Once we get some of these brave early adopters out of the way and have some solid success stories under our belt then we're going to get serious market shifts. "

Some solution providers say Red and Novell may have an easier time trying to convince large enterprise customers to move to the Linux desktop but he predicts it will be a difficult sell in the SMB market.

"Unfortunately, we don't see any opportunity for it. It all comes down to mass customer acceptability. We're an SMB shop. Even the most inexperienced SMB end-user is going to balk at it when confronted with the unfamiliar look and steep learning curve," said Daniel J. Haurey, principal at Exigent Technologies. " I'm sure that the folks at Red Hat would love to liken it to switching from gas-powered to hybrid, but I think the reality is that it's more like going from driving to work - to walking."

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