Dell preloads Red Hat Linux

Buyers of Dell servers will get an easily accessible alternative to Windows NT when it starts offering to preload Red Hat Linux on its server products.

Dell has long supported Red Hat's distribution of the open-source operating system, which includes tools for installing and managing the operating system, said Russ Holt, Dell vice president and general manager of departmental and workgroup servers.

Dell has offered Red Hat Linux to customers along with new systems for some time, beginning with version 5.2. But in the past, Dell simply bundled the software with the system and the customer had to install it, or Dell charged an additional fee to preload Linux. In November it becomes an option at no extra charge.

Dell will install the latest Red Hat Linux, version 6.1. For now, the factory installation applies only to Intel-based server products, not to workstations or desktops.

Linux is a good operating system for entry-level servers that handle specific jobs such as Web hosting, Holt says. It doesn't support as many applications as some operating systems, but it's a robust alternative for a server dedicated to a specific job.

Linux has drawn increased interest in the past two years, as evidenced in an IDC study released in August. When the market research firm surveyed 788 user sites in North America, it found 13 per cent of the respondents run Linux - up from virtually zero two years earlier.

In addition to its reliability, Holt says, Linux's free source code origin makes it attractive because it is significantly less expensive than other server operating systems. But there's a benefit to using Red Hat's version of Linux over free versions from the Web, he notes.

It "takes the mysticism out of it" and makes Linux less confusing, according to Holt. Buying Red Hat Linux preloaded also means you get a complete operating system that has been tested and retested on Dell servers.

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