Analysis: Red Hat guns for big business

From the depths of an inner Sydney cigar lounge, Linux vendor Red Hat has launched its biggest assault on the enterprise operating system market to date, rolling out three new upgrades aimed squarely at stealing market share away from Unix users operating on Sun platforms.

Collectively known as Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, the most notable part of the new offering is an aggressive pitch into the mainframe and mid-range space with its Advanced Server (AS) product, an area where large enterprises have traditionally been wary of Linux deployments citing scalability concerns.

Speaking at the launch, Intel strategic relations manager Brett Hannath said while there has been some past reticence about the deployment of open source to run large data centres, large companies were now confident enough to roll it out.

"There was a stigma against Linux, but that has really changed in the last 24 months. [One obstacle] was that all the third-party vendors had to be there, like the BMC Patrols, and that has happened now," Hannath said.

Hannath also revealed getting large enterprises to put aside their Linux fears had, on occasion, required some extraordinary measures from Penguin evangelists.

"I have personally funded proof-of-concept projects myself," he said, adding that he had every confidence the Linux market would continue to explode over the next few years as the Penguin broke free of its Web server stereotype and took on the enterprise applications market.

"Clustered databases and database applications need 16 CPU boxes [and bigger] and we have that [capability] now; its stable and it works. That's happened over the last 12 months," Hannath said.

Red Hat's Asia Pacific vice president Gus Robertson revealed the current release would remain to be based on the Linux 2.4 kernel to guarantee stability rather than opting for the more feature-rich 2.6 option-which is due for release by the end of the year.

"[We decided] 2.6 is not stable enough for enterprise release…although we have back-ported some features [into Enterprise Linux 3].

Robertson said that he expected year-on-year uptake for the new offering to exceed 100 per cent for at least the next three years, with the Linux starting to achieve market maturity sometime around 2007. Asked when he expected Linux uptake to achieve critical mass, Robertson nominated 2010 as a likely date for new sales to plateau, whereupon Linux vendors would become reliant on continuing subscription revenues.

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