The planned release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 in the first quarter of 2005 plays catch-up to the August introduction of Novell Suse Linux Enterprise Server 9, the first commercial Linux distribution that incorporated the 2.6 kernel.
The availability of the top two commercial Linux distributions based on the Linux 2.6 kernel—roughly a year after the kernel's completion—will enable the open-source operating system to gain greater footing in the enterprise applications market space. According to a survey by Peerstone Research, Linux will grow its share of the enterprise applications market to 15 percent by 2007, up from 2 percent today.
"The built-in scalability and storage capabilities take the Linux 2.6 kernel deeper into the data center," said Michael Ferris, director of product marketing at Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat.
Partners praised the debut of both Linux 2.6 distributions but said it will take some time for Linux to gain ground in the enterprise apps space.
"No one is really waiting to jump on the new kernel," said Christopher Carter, CEO of CCI, an SAP business partner in Milwaukee. "We still need to test it within the SAP environments."
Bob Bajoras, sales manager at Art & Logic, a consulting firm in Glendale, Calif., said his company doesn't get many inquiries about Linux. "Many of the large projects that come to us are looking for a .Net solution or J2EE solutions," he said. "You still have to go out on a limb to recommend Linux or open-source technology over other platforms. There's still some resistance."
Red Hat's Linux 4 line also will feature support for the Security-Enhanced Linux kernel, 64-bit extended processors, GNOME 2.8 user interface, FireFox browser and Logical Volume Manager 2.0.
Red Hat will also bundle the Xen open-source project's virtualization code "in the very near future," said Steven Hand, a computer scientist at the University of Cambridge, which is sponsoring the Xen project.
"We've also got a lot of momentum in the open-source community, so we're pushing into the mainstream," Hand said.