A tip of the Hat to Linux support

In order for Linux to make real headway into the enterprise, supporting software and services will have to be made available, and if the spate of recent announcements is any proof, Red Hat Software Inc. is serious about giving Linux the corporate push.

Along with partnership and alliance agreements that create third-party support infrastructures, Red Hat has expanded its own, internal Linux support offerings.

First of all, Red Hat detailed an extended software and support program for system builders that is designed to boost the support available to users of the Linux operating system, tools, and applications.

The key offering under this initiative is the Official Red Hat Linux Commercial Server Edition. The server will come in two versions: pre-installed or a install-it-yourself option.

The pre-installed Commercial Server Edition-OEM provides customers with 90 days of round-the-clock post-installation telephone support for as many as three incidents. The do-it-yourself customers receive 90 days of round-the-clock technical support for as many as three incidents, on pre- and post-installation issues. All products come with Official Red Hat Linux 5.2 software and documentation.

Additional post-installation support can be added or continued with the purchase of Red Hat’s Call Pack Support Products, which range from per-incident packages to Platinum Support.

In the most significant alliance agreement, Red Hat announced that it has joined forces with Hewlett-Packard Co. to offer integration services and support to users running Linux on HP’s Intel-based NetServer systems. HP will also port Linux to platforms based on the IA64 architecture, Intel’s forthcoming 64-bit microprocessor design, when it comes out, HP officials said.

HP NetServer LPr, designed for ISPs and corporate IT departments, will be the first to support Red Hat Linux version 5.2, with the entire HP NetServer product line supporting that flavour of Linux by the middle of this year, said Aurora Belarmino, world-wide market development manager for NetServer.

The support aspect of the deal means that a customer who calls HP with a problem related to hardware will talk to an HP representative and will be “hot transferred” to Red Hat if the matter is determined to involve software.

Industry analysts are being supportive of the alliance.

“The NetServer LPr is a good match for the capabilities demanded by several of the market segments that are using Linux, [including] ISPs that want low-cost, high-density computing,” said Dan Kusnetsky, an analyst at International Data Corp., in Sarasota, Fla.

In addition to HP, Red Hat is busy working away with other hardware companies such as Compaq Computer Corp. and Dell Computer Corp.

Red Hat will announce next week that Dell and Red Hat have certified certain configurations of the Dell PowerEdge 1300 and 2300 servers, as well as the Dell Precision 410 and 610 workstations for use with Red Hat Linux.

“Dell is exploring both possibilities: server and workstations,” said a Dell representative who requested anonymity. “If customers want to run Linux, we are geared up to give them that.”

Compaq is announcing next week support for Linux on its Alpha Server DS20 line. Compaq resellers will have the option of providing any version of Linux on the servers, and will also provide the needed support.

Linux support, and in particular Red Hat support, is something that hardware purchasers are demanding to see more and more of, and it just isn’t ISP hardware buyers who are doing the looking.

“Our customers are asking for Linux support on NetServers, and we are beginning to see adoption in corporate [markets],” said Hannah Lewis, HP NetServer product manager.

“At this point in time, Red Hat is really the leader in the Linux marketplace,” she said, adding that if customers clamour for an alternative distributor for the software, then HP will explore other options. Right now, though, HP users have said they prefer to do business with Red Hat.