Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0: Beta Test Drive

 
 
By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2003-08-21
 
 
 
Red Hat Inc. is nearing the second release in its line of Linux distributions geared specifically for the enterprise, and the new offering builds upon Red Hats server room strengths while emerging as a strong candidate for desktop deployment.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 Beta 1
The latest in Red Hats line of enterprise Linux distributions, which we tested in beta form, offers enterprises a solid, affordable option for their network operating system needs. Whats more, with a raft of desktop-oriented improvements pulled from the 8.0 and 9 releases of Red Hat Linux, the new enterprise edition of Red Hat Linux should serve well the needs of mainstream corporate client systems.

  • PRO: Smooth Bluecurve GUI for KDE and GNOME; support for logical volume management; support for access control lists in the file system.

  • CON: Distribution channel for vital, for-cost add-ons such as Java virtual machine and Flash Player remains unclear; on the desktop, lacks range of application availability enjoyed by Windows.

  • EVALUATION SHORT LIST
    Microsoft Windows XP, 2003 • SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 and SuSE Linux Office Desktop • Apple Mac OS X 10.2

    The previous incarnation of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), Version 2.1, was based on Red Hat Linux 7.3, which is now a year-and-a-half old. (At Version 7.3, Red Hat branched off development of the enterprise flavor, and RHEL 3.0 is the latest version along that branch; the more quickly evolving Red Hat Linux is now at Version 9.)

    Quite a bit has changed since RHEL 2.1 became available, particularly in the area of desktop suitability. The beta we tested, code-named Taroon, sports a set of desktop improvements that initially appeared in Red Hat Linux. Most noticeably, Taroon is clad in Red Hats sharp-looking Bluecurve user interface theme, which impressed us in Red Hat Linux 8.0 and 9.

    Taroon ships with the XFree86 4.3 graphics subsystem, as well as with GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) 2.2 and KDE (K Desktop Environment) 3.1.2. It also the OpenOffice.org 1.0.2 office productivity suite, Ximian Evolution 1.4.3 mail client and Mozilla 1.4 Web browser.

    Taroon became available for free download from Red Hats ftp site in late July. Red Hat officials said they plan to ship RHEL 3.0 in October. As with Version 2.1, the new release will come in workstation, departmental server and data center server versions, with the high-end version priced at about $2,500.

    Taroon supports Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s x86_64, Intel Corp.s ia64 and IBMs ppc64 and s390x 64-bit platforms, in addition to AMD and Intels 32-bit x86 platforms. Red Hat supported ia64 in its last enterprise release; its support for AMDs x86_64 architecture, the one on which AMDs Opteron chips are based, is new.

    Taroon includes support for LVM (logical volume management), a method of allocating hard drive space into logical volumes that can be easily resized. During tests, we were pleased with the features usability. LVM first surfaced in the 8.0 release of Red Hat Linux, and Linux rival SuSE has offered the capability for some time now. Microsoft Corp.s Windows and Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris operating systems have similar volume manager capabilities, so this addition addresses what had been a competitive disadvantage for Red Hat.

    Taroon also supports ACLs (access control lists), which provide finer-grained control over file permissions in the ext3 filesystem.

    The new operating system runs on a kernel based on the 2.4.21 version of Linux, which includes, among other scalability enhancements, the NPTL (Native Posix Threading Library).

    Taroon ships with version 2.1 of the open source Eclipse Development Environment. Eclipse requires a Java virtual machine to run, but Taroon doesnt ship with one.

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    Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at Jason_Brooks@ziffdavis.com.

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