Red Hat waits for new Linux kernel to pop

An updated version of the heart of Linux is expected soon, but it could be more than a year before the operating system's top seller includes it in its corporate product. Red Hat's newest product for businesses, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 (RHEL 3.0), released last week, is based on version 2.4.21 of the Linux kernel, the core part of the OS. Customers will have to wait for RHEL 4 to see Linux version 2.6 in the corporate product, said Brian Stevens, Red Hat's vice president of OS development. "The reality is it's not ready," Stevens said of the 2.6 kernel.

While Red Hat customers will have to wait for some of the benefits expected with the 2.6 kernel--better performance, security and ability to run on powerful multiprocessor systems, for example--Red Hat is bridging the gap by bringing some of the 2.6 features to the current 2.4 kernel. (The 2.5 kernel, like the earlier 2.3 and the 2.7 to come, is for development use only.) Red Hat waits 12 to 18 months between new versions of its corporate product, so it's likely that RHEL 4 with Linux 2.6 will arrive in 2005.

"The timing might be a little bit unfortunate from Red Hat's perspective. It's probably a little bit of a long gap," Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said. "Hitting 2004 would mean being on the very short end of their release cycle--and that's assuming that 2.6 itself doesn't slip much longer. It seems like a stretch."

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