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Red Hat Unveils Latest Linux Distribution

Red Hat Inc. Monday unleashed Red Hat Linux 7.1, the latest distribution of its highly popular flavor of Linux, with a host of new features to make the operating system even more enterprise-friendly. The distribution is built around 2.4 kernel, the latest kernel approved by Linux creator Linus Thorvalds.

The coupling of the release with a trial subscription to the Red Hat Network Software Manager is also a strong sign that the company is taking strides to continue its transformation into a services and support company, which most industry analysts see as an essential revenue stream for businesses offering Linux distributions.

Software Manager is a service in which Red Hat helps keep users' systems up to date with errata alerts, software updates and RPM Update (which lets users automatically queue and deliver software to individual systems).

The latest Linux kernel has improved SMP support for enhanced multiprocessor support. Red Hat said its new distribution is an enterprise class operating system, with support for 4GB userland process. It also eliminates the PCI bus limit, "makes virtual memory effectively limitless," supports 64GB of physical RAM, supports a greater number of users and groups, includes a revised scheduler to handle more processes, carries increased and improved devic support and an improved multi-threaded network stack.

Red Hat Linux 7.1 also delivers new configuration tools -- including BIND (DNS), Apache and Print tool -- to help users set up and administer DNS, Web and print servers.

The installation process has also been streamlined. Red Hat 7.1 features a graphical Kickstart configuration tool which allows for unattended installation and a new install class for laptop users.

Red Hat has also tinkered with security. The company said 7.1 has secure default settings that keep ports closed and Internet utilities inactive until needed. Also, a new firewall screen gives users the ability to turn on or off as many features as desired.

The latest release also includes updated versions of the GNOME and KDE GUIs, as well as Mozilla. And, for the international audience, 7.1 has increased internalization that supports the global user community with fully translated GNOME interfaces in Japanese, Spanish, French, German and Italian.

The new release is rounded out with an XFree86 4.0.3 that supports 2D and 3D graphics, USB support for "hot pluggable" devices, a new 200-page Customization Guide, and TUX 2.0, which the company bills as the world's fastest Web server.

"Red Hat Linux is firmly embedded in today's computing infrastructure," said Matthew Szulik, chief executive officer of Red Hat. "The release of Red Hat Linux 7.1 and the first in a series of Red Hat Network subscription services makes it easy for organizations to quickly realize the benefits of open source computing. The elements of Red Hat Linux 7.1 work together to deliver the most powerful, automated open source operating system for fast-growing enterprise and Internet infrastructure users."

Indeed, Red Hat has become one of the most popular Linux distributions used in the enterprise. Both Dell and IBM -- which is investing heavily in Linux -- have embraced Red Hat Linux.

"With the scalability enhancements in the new 2.4 kernel, Red Hat is delivering the most robust version of Linux to date," said Dick Sullivan, vice president, Solutions and Integration Marketing, IBM Software.

Red Hat is making 7.1 available in three versions, all of which include the operating system, installation manual, support and the Red Hat Network. The standard package comes with 30 days of Web-based support and 30 days of Red Hat Network Software Manager for one system at $39.95. The Deluxe package includes 60 days of Red Hat Network Software Manager for up to five systems, and 60 days of telephone and Web support for $79.95. The Professional package includes 90 days of Red Hat Network Software Manager for up to 10 systems and 90 days of telephone and Web support for $179.95.

Both the Deluxe and Professional versions also include productivity applications (some trial versions and some full versions), StarOffice Office Suite, a Loki Games CD and user guides. The Professional version also includes support for Software RAID Configuration and Apache and BIND configuration.