The current economic downturn has forced business and IT leaders to focus on technology strategies that are forward-thinking yet budget-minded. Open-source solutions are well-suited to today's market conditions because they are typically more economical than commercial software and because they incorporate technological advances and bug fixes faster than their commercial counterparts, thanks to an open and ongoing development process. In particular, the newly released Red Hat Linux 7.1 by Red Hat is a solid alternative in enterprise settings, especially when reducing costs is as important as increasing functionality. A number of improvements in Version 7.1 make this release of Red Hat Linux more compelling than ever. For starters, IT managers can deploy Red Hat Linux onto all three tiers of the enterprise. The release supports hardware ranging from 486-based systems to SMP (symmetrical multiprocessing) platforms, covering everything from laptops and desktops to middle-tier servers and back-end database systems. In addition to working on newly deployed systems, Red Hat Linux can be used with existing hardware, allowing you to preserve past investments. Red Hat Linux 7.1 compares favourably to rival solutions such as Windows 9x and Me, Windows NT, and Windows 2000. Even after factoring in the cost of software licensing, training, support, and administration, Red Hat Linux lowers the investment needed to maintain server and end-user systems. This release improves the cost/benefit ratio in several respects. It's easier to install and use than Version 7.0, provides better support for laptops, adds new support for USB devices, and works with larger memory sizes and multiprocessor systems. New security features, including multiple security levels and firewall configuration during set-up, also add to the product's value. Furthermore, upgrades to major system components, including the GNU Compiler Collection, the Mosilla open-source Web browser, and the Gnome and KDE graphical user interfaces, are solid improvements over the 7.0 release. To put Red Hat Linux 7.1's new capabilities to the test, we implemented it on all three enterprise tiers in our lab. On end-user, middle-tier, and back-end systems alike, the OS proved highly capable, flexible, and easy to set up, manage, and use, earning our Deploy recommendation.
Report from the front
Our test environment included a variety of systems, ranging from Windows 98 and Windows 2000 to Solaris and AS/400 (iSeries). Starting on the end-user side of the equation, we loaded Red Hat Linux on several Sony Vaio and Dell Latitude laptops. In addition, we installed the 7.1 release on several IBM, Dell, and Compaq desktop systems.
We tried installing the OS onto the end-user machines directly from CD-ROM as well as via the network. The installation process correctly detected our hardware set-ups, including the USB devices we had installed. The automated set-up procedure is easier than ever, and within a short time all our end-user systems were running without incident.
With our end-user hats on, we graphically accessed and executed applications as easily as on rival platforms. We could send and receive e-mails, surf the Web, create Microsoft Office-compatible documents, and share files, printers, and other network resources with other platforms on our test network. Even end-users unfamiliar with Linux would easily become productive with this release.
On to the middle tier
Next we turned our attention to the middle tier, loading Red Hat 7.1 onto several single-and dual-processor server-class machines. Here again, the automated installation routine made set-up a breeze. Within 30 minutes, we had installed and configured fully functional servers capable of Web, application, file, and print serving, requiring only a single reboot at the end of the process.
Both new and seasoned server administrators will like the tools and solutions included in this release. For example, a new graphical interface made it a simple affair to set up the included Apache Web servers. We also liked the newly included Tux Web server, which proved a peppy performer.
Other tools allow you to graphically configure DNS services as well as printers (support is included for more than 500 printers). We quickly and easily configured some of our servers to support shared Internet access. Configuring other servers to access file systems on our non-Linux platforms was also straightforward.
Finally, we donned our database administrator hats and loaded the OS onto several quad-processor machines to support database operations for an e-commerce application. As with our end-user and middle-tier tests, we had no trouble setting up Red Hat Linux on our back-end systems.
We paired our back-end servers with Oracle and IBM databases in two separate rounds of testing. We were impressed with how easily we could integrate our database servers with our Web servers, including those on non-Linux platforms.
Beyond the tiers
Reminiscent of Microsoft's Windows Update process, Red Hat offers online access to software updates via the Red Hat Network. Updates can be initiated manually or automatically, making it easy to process upgrades across the enterprise.
In addition, Red Hat is now offering a variety of training options, available both in traditional classroom settings and online. Training topics range from transitioning to Linux from other operating systems to networking with Linux to programming on the platform. Business and IT leaders will also want to examine support options that are specifically geared to enterprise customers. More information on support options can be found at www.redhat.com/products/support/enterprise, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, Red Hat has introduced version 7.1 in packaging configurations exclusive to the Asia-Pacific market. Red Hat's new "Official 7.1" product - featuring 4CDs (including a bonus Loki games CD) and an installation guide, is now available at the low RRP of $24.95. Two documentation packages (the Getting Started Guide and Reference Kit) are now available, in addition to the regular Deluxe Workstation and Professional Server Editions.
From front end to back, we were quite impressed with this latest release of Red Hat Linux. It offers good ease-of-use, flexibility, and functionality galore. More important, it provides an economical way to address e-business requirements across the enterprise.
The bottom line - Red Hat 7.1
Business Case: This cost-effective OS yields enterprise-level reliability, performance, and manageability while reducing infrastructure costs.
Technology Case: This release boasts a bevy of improvements, including easier setup and support for large memory sizes and symmetrical multiprocessing systems.
- Easy to set up
- Added security measures
- Improvements for laptops
- New USB and device support
- Good interoperability
- None significant
Platforms: Intel hardware
Price: $A25 (RRP), Red Official 7.1 edition; $A160, Deluxe Workstation; $A255, Professional Server.
Red Hat Asia-Pacific: 1800 REDHAT (1800 733 428), email@example.com.
Distributed in Australia by Tech Pacific (www.techpac.com.au tel: 1300 651 124) and Everything Linux (www.everythinglinux.com.au tel: 02 8753 0792).