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Like an early holiday present, Linux 2.6 arrived on Thursday. The new software made Linux distributors happy, but analysts disagreed on how the new kernel will affect the marketplace.

Chris Stone, vice chairman of Provo, Utah-based Novell Inc., said in a prepared statement, “The Linux industry is rapidly accelerating and the 2.6 kernel will add to the momentum. With this new release comes enhancements that will benefit customers from the desktop to the data center. Solutions based on this new kernel will allow Linux to fulfill its promise as an end-to-end enterprise-computing platform.”

Novell in November acquired SuSE Linux AG in a deal worth $210 million. The company Thursday released its Novell Nterprise Linux Services 1.0, software that provides Linux support for a set of services and applications available on Novell’s NetWare operating system.

Others in the Linux community focused more on the update’s advances in technology, rather than the business side.

Chris Mason, a Linux kernel software developer for SuSE Linux, looked forward to better performance when handling large files.

“Linux 2.6’s improved I/O and CPU scalability combined with file size limits ranging from terabytes to exabytes depending on the file system will make it much better for DBMS uses,” Mason said. “Some of this functionality, such as improved block device handling, has already been back-ported into our current Linux 2.4 server for our users.”

SuSE wasn’t the only vendor that has borrowed from the update’s features to improve its current Version 2.4-based offerings. Red Hat Inc. spokeswoman Leigh Day mentioned that Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 3 already has some 2.6 processor enhancements.

Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat, though, will not be pushing out a 2.6-based version of RHEL quickly. “Red Hat will take significant time to harden and test 2.6. It’s the responsible thing for us to do for our customers and partners,” Day said. “It will though be available in the next release of Fedora, in the second quarter of 2004, to be followed by RHEL 4 in the fall of 2004.”

SuSE spokesman Joe Eckert said SUSE will be aggressive with Linux 2.6. “We expect to have the first commercially available Linux with a 2.6 kernel by the summer of 2004. Since several of our developers work closely with the kernel team, we feel Linux 2.6 is ready now,” he said.

While SuSE may turn out to be the first major commercial distributor to get Linux 2.6 out the door, Indianapolis-based Progeny Linux Systems Inc. looks to be the first business-focused Linux distributor to put the Version 2.6 kernel in operation in multiple sites.

Garth Dickey, Progeny’s CEO, said, “We think that it is a wonderful step forward for Linux, and it underscores part of our business logic. It will take months in some cases and years in others for 2.6 to be adopted by the mainline distributions; meanwhile we look forward to integrating it into custom distributions for clients of our Platform Services as soon as they ask for it.”

Next Page: Analysts and SCO sound off on Linux 2.6.

Regardless of who gets out the door first with a business-class Linux 2.6-based distribution, Joe Wilcox, a senior analyst with Jupiter Research of Darien, Conn., said Microsoft Corp. has reason to be concerned.

“The real challenge for Microsoft will be with Server 2003,” Wilcox said. “The company has a large installed base on NT 4, they’re using it for file and print, and they can just as easily use Linux. Microsoft has been trying hard to court those customers, but Microsoft is facing challenges especially with the perception that Windows has significant security problems. This new release, the newness factor, will win some interest from NT users who have been on the fence.

“There’s a perception that Windows’ long release cycles, with Longhorn years away, and a fast turnover of Linux distributions, and Mac OS X on a fairly regular schedule, that Windows is now lumbering along, while open-source operating systems are quicker and more responsive with their frequent new releases,” Wilcox said.

On the other hand, Dan Kusnetzky, International Data Corp.’s vice president for system software research, did not think Microsoft has anything to worry about immediately from Linux 2.6.

“[Version] 2.6 is an interesting technical artifact for most organizations using Linux, since most of them will wait for it to be adopted in a commercial distribution before deploying it,” Kusnetzky said. However, “technically it does appear to be a significant advance, and the development community can be expected to adopt it as soon as possible.”

As expected, there was one company that didn’t see much importance in the new features found in Linux 2.6. The SCO Group’s director of public relations, Blake Stowell, stated, “To our knowledge, 2.6 builds upon the intellectual property violations that continue to be in 2.4. JFS, NUMA, XFS, RCU and a host of other code violations have not been removed. SCO’s position remains unchanged.”