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Enterprise Linux server distributions

Red Hat beats out UnitedLinux

By Tom Henderson, Network World Global Test Alliance, Network World
June 23, 2003 12:01 AM ET

Network World - When we pitted Red Hat Enterprise Linux against several flavors of UnitedLinux to see how each fared as an enterprise server platform, we found each edition of the popular GNU/Linux operating system to represent a distinct method on how to build bare metal into a working server. Installation is different, configuration options are different, and hardware support varies across these Linux flavors.

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We selected Red Hat's Enterprise Linux as the Network World Blue Ribbon winner in this test because while the systems were somewhat comparable in terms of performance and management wares, Red Hat offers more hardware support, is easier to configure and offers more security  options.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux comes in numerous flavors, ranging from a $179 desktop/workstation edition called Enterprise Linux WS Basic Edition to the Enterprise Linux AS Premium Edition we tested. The premium edition, which costs about $2,500, is distinguished from its siblings by clustering capabilities, additional hardware support and service options.

UnitedLinux is a consortium of product/service vendors, comprising founding Linux operating system distributors SuSE LinuxThe SCO GroupConectiva and TurboLinux, and application vendors such as Oracle , which contributed Oracle 9i to the mix. This consortium is an effort to bring a standard code, feature and configuration set to Linux distributions so that applications developed under UnitedLinux can take advantage of standards in each UnitedLinux product.

The code base and infrastructure of UnitedLinux editions has SuSE Enterprise Linux as an ancestor. A modified SuSE YAST2 front-end installation program serves as a common denominator among the four UnitedLinux versions and ensures that setup among the distributions is identical. But after installation, each UnitedLinux edition branches out to suit a target market.

Initially, all four consortium members offered distributions for this review. But SCO pulled its support for UnitedLinux, and pulled out of this review.

We reviewed the SuSE UnitedLinux version extensively, but because the Conectiva and TurboLinux versions are focused on the Brazilian/Portuguese speaking and Southeast Asian markets, respectively, we did not test them extensively.

While neither SuSE UnitedLinux nor Red Hat's distribution strayed from its Linux Standards Base (a reference platform that ensures that all applications can run across Linux distributions), hardware support favored Red Hat, if only for a larger driver base and advanced hardware detection. But we found that all hardware items were discovered and configured correctly, with few mistakes made by each distribution vendor. All UnitedLinux distributions behaved identically.

The custom-installation option on Red Hat offers a variety of choices relating to what software you want installed, disk partitioning, and boot loader selection. Alternatively, an installation wizard can make these choices for you. The wizard worked well and mostly made astute choices, although it divided our disk arrays into seemingly bite-sized devices with seven partitions. By contrast, the UnitedLinux distributions divided the two disks we used into larger chunks, which is a better way to reserve server space for future operations.

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