Speaking with ZDNet Australia yesterday morning, Red Hat general manager for Australia and New Zealand Gus Robertson made it clear that the new features of Red Hat Network were aimed squarely at putting Sun Microsystems out of business. He said: "We have been talking about the demise of Unix for some time and had our sights set firmly on Solaris".
"The majority of the business that we've been getting has been Unix to Linux migrations. With respect to migrations with time frames in the medium to long term, as opposed to the short term, our customers have been asking constantly if we could incorporate Solaris into the Red Hat Network".
The RHN features were released simultaneously with version 4 of Red Hat's Enterprise Linux (RHEL) solution, which Robertson said was "banging the final nail in the coffin for Solaris". RHEL v4 is based upon version 2.6 of the Linux kernel, and includes support for the National Security Agency's (NSA) Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) software. The distribution will also support version 2.8 of the popular Gnome desktop software.
Paul Gampe, Red Hat's director of engineering for Asia-Pacific, who also spoke with ZDNet Australia , said that the inclusion of SELinux would bring security features to the distribution that traditionally would have been priced out of the market "for the average data centre operator". According to the web site of the NSA, the software "enforces mandatory access control policies that confine user programs and system servers to the minimum amount of privilege they require to do their jobs".
Although competitor SUSE had shipped the 2.6 kernel with a version of its Linux distribution some six months ago in August 2004, Gampe said that Red Hat "did not believe that the technology was significantly mature at the point that Suse released it". In addition, Red Hat had already back-ported some features of the 2.6 kernel to its own version of the 2.4 kernel, such as the IO scheduler.
In addition, Robertson said, Red Hat is locked into agreements with partners Intel, IBM and Oracle that would not leave the company at liberty to modify its rigid 12-18 month release cycle.
Gampe also took the opportunity to weigh in on the Java Desktop System (JDS), Sun's own desktop system which somewhat competes with Red Hat's product line. Gamte said the name JDS was a misnomer, as the system was "a straight Gnome desktop with a couple of Java apps that don't follow the look and feel - basically just marketing".
The topic led into the general issue of Sun's recent moves to release more of its software to the Open Source community. In January the company released its DTrace software, a key component of Solaris 10 which allows network and system performance to be fine-tuned in real-time. The company also released information to the effect that it intends to show its good faith to the community by open sourcing the bulk of Solaris 10 under its Community Development and Distribution Licence (CDDL), which is understood to be directly based on the Mozilla Public Licence (MPL).
Robertson did not seem to be impressed with the practicality of Sun's demonstration of good faith, saying: "Red Hat's policy is to be an open source provider of technology. Our competitors are providing a hybrid of open source and proprietary software - that's not the model we're going after". He went on to say: "We've had a very clear focus on Open Source technology and have been doing it for over ten years, now other organisations are seeing that this is successful and have started to copy what we're doing. But this is not something that you can start doing overnight".
Gampe was more clear about what exactly his organisation felt about the issue, saying: "The open source train has left the station and Sun has been left behind".