Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.0--The Enterprise Gets An Update
Enterprise Linux and Red Hat
Red Hat is not only one of the oldest and best known Linux distributions, but is probably the one that has the most traction in the business community thanks to smart people, clever marketing, a steady stream of advertisements, and the introduction of some of the concepts that people take for granted in the commercial Linux space. Many Linux distributions, such as Red Hat, SUSE, Mandrakelinux, and even the ill-fated Caldera Linux distribution, have offered server and desktop products for years, but Red Hat was the first to make a lot of noise about "Linux for the Enterprise," pioneering the label, if not the concept.
Enterprise Linux vendors have to walk the tightrope between providing stable and up-to-date versions of the software packages required in enterprise deployments. Stability is an interesting notion in the Open Source world. On the one hand, you have the legions of dedicated and capable developers who are continually identifying and fixing problems in Open Source software.
On the other hand, you have Linux distribution vendors who are doing the same thing themselves, either by committing resources directly to supporting various software packages or by incorporating patches from the Open Source community. Either way, this is still a net win over proprietary software with a single possible source, a black-box approach to software deployment, and painfully slow release and update cycles.
Red Hat's focus on the Enterprise has had different effects on the desktop and enterprise communities. Desktop users who had previously committed to Red Hat have been split into two communities. One of these is made up of users who feel rejected, are disconcerted about desktop support, and have therefore largely gone elsewhere for supported desktop Linux products.
The flip side of this is the users who are taking advantage of the momentum of the Fedora project and the expertise of its contributors to keep moving forward with the descendant of a popular and widely-used distribution. In enterprise deployments, there's always Red Hat EL Desktop, which is attractive for support reasons and little else.
In the enterprise, most large organizations, except perhaps those with a huge existing commitment to the distribution formerly known as Red Hat N (now end-of-lifed), have seen Red Hat's Enterprise focus as a tremendous win because this has brought enterprise applications vendors such as Oracle into the Linux fold. Businesses can count on Red Hat for enterprise-caliber support and can therefore safely commit to adopting Linux as the heart of their infrastructure without having to worry that they may always have to retain legions of hackers chained in the basement.
Conservative release cycles and a more exhaustive test cycle make Red Hat Enterprise Linux a safer bet for the business community--they don't have to chase the release of the week. And finally, Red Hat's well-known and thoroughly advertised certification and training programs guarantee a certain level of competency and provide the kinds of data points that HR personnel and MIS/IT managers can identify on during the hiring process even if they don't personally know the right questions to ask.