The heavy hitters at Red Hat and some high-profile partners are saying the Linux software company is taking penguin fans to a new level — the enterprise.

And some Triangle Linux followers and customer software developers tell Local Tech Wire that the Red Hatters (Nasdaq: RHAT) may be on to something significant with their new “Advanced Server.”

“This seems to be an effort by Linux to reach the higher end customers that have been a little bit out of reach,” says Tom Miller, professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University. “What they’ve done with Red Hat is to restructure their business software and support and some of the technology to more closely match what some of the bigger customers expect with an enterprise-class operating system.

“And they’ve lined up a lot of strong support with Oracle and VERITAS, Dell, Compaq and IBM as players. They’ve all endorsed it, so I think it’s going to be taken very seriously.”

Miller speaks from experience. He has paid very close attention to Linux since 1993. In 1999 he deployed the university infrastructure which is Linux-based.

“Linux was a real opportunity to bring the benefits of UNIX to the individual user,” he says. “I’ve been a Linux watcher and participant since the beginning.”

Also impressed is Craig Isdahl, a customer software developer at Dash Systems in Raleigh.

“From what I’ve read, they’re definitely going after the Fortune 1000, Fortune 500 companies like Dell, IBM, Compaq and other major players,” Isdahl says. “I don’t know that a medium sized business will want to make that kind of investment.” But, he adds, “The side benefit of this enterprise-class system is that it lends legitimacy to open source OS software, Linux itself and their business model.”

Kelly Campbell, president of Interface Technologies in Raleigh which also develops custom software, also believes the Red Hat move could be a major one.

“If they’ve added new functionality to their product, I think it will help the corporate system,”he says. “If Red Hat has made the integration easier, then it’s a good thing. The questions I would have is if it is better than what I can get off the net.”

A new operating system?

However, is this a brand new operating system or a reorganization of the existing operating system? According to one of Red Hat’s representatives it’s a little bit of both. What is considered to be the Red Hat Linux OS is a combination of the popular Linux system available in the open source community augmented by concentrated efforts at Red Hat.

And Red Hat is banking that its targeting of the enterprise customer will pay off.

The Red Hat Linux Advanced Server was unveiled in New York last week and is being promoted as the first enterprise-class Linux operating system. Red Hat also is touting studies that show companies can save considerable amounts of money by moving from proprietary UNIX to Linux. (The announcement had little impact on Red Hat stock, however. It is trading at $5.70 as markets opened today – virtually the same as when the enterprise development was announced.)

Joining Red Hat at this event were technology leaders Intel Corporation, Oracle and VERITAS Software, as well as other customers from New York City’s financial community. The Red Hatters insist that the Advanced Server products will enable large companies to accelerate their adjustment from UNIX to Linux running on Intel-based systems.

The Advanced Server and integrated services will be available in April, starting at a basic cost of $800 per server, based on the level of services required. While $800 per server for a “bare bones” system might seem costly to small businesses, this system is designed for the larger companies.

Costs of Linux vs. UNIX

And a newly published study from consulting firm International Data Corporation documents a significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO) for Linux on the Intel architecture over RISC/UNIX environments. The study details cost considerations for internet/intranet/extranet and collaborative workloads including procurement, installation, administration, and support.

Based on U.S. dollars per year, an Internet/intranet/extranet utilizing Linux (per user for 1,000 supported users) would amount to $377. With the RISC/UNIX that figure would rise to $684. With a collaborative workload, the Linux system would amount to $255 per user for 1,000 supported users. With the RISC/Unix environment, the amount per user would escalate to $1,407.

According to an earlier IDC study in January (Linux vs. Unix: An International Data Corporation Study), Linux emerged as a cost-effective and viable alternative to Unix for enterprise computing. The associated costs with Linux appeared to be dramatically lower for the hardware and software, and even comparably lower costs for staffing — the largest component of overall IT solution costs.

“Linux provides a lower-cost platform for these workloads, especially in the first year of deployment,” the paper says. “For enterprises with the right mix of requirements and skill, Linux offers tremendous potential to lower costs associated with supporting application workloads.”

According to Red Hat, the new Linux Advanced Server is the industry’s first platform to deliver the full benefits of open source computing to the enterprise. The package will include a one-year subscription to the Red Hat Network for managed services, secure configuration, asset management and ongoing, centralized maintenance through a single, intuitive Web interface.

However, is this a brand new operating system or a reorganization of the existing OS? According to one of Red Hat’s representatives it’s a little bit of both. What is considered to be the Red Hat Linux OS is a combination of the popular Linux system available to most of us and a concerted effort from Red Hat.

For more information and to see the IDC reports, visit: