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NPTL centerpiece of Red Hat Linux 9 release

A Giga Information Group analyst points out that the inclusion of NPTL in the upcoming release of Red Hat Linux 9 parallels the inclusion of NPTL in the next Linux kernel.

Red Hat Inc. on Tuesday announced details of Red Hat Linux 9, which features a significant strategy shift: the Raleigh, N.C.-based distributor skipped all potential point releases and went straight to a new version number with this upgrade, which includes a new threading system and brings the latest features to low-end users.

Giga Information Group analyst Stacey Quandt said that the company's decision to skip from Red Hat 8 to 9 without an intermittent point release shows an attempt to stave off confusion for customers after the company recently splintered Red Hat Advanced Server into separate products, including Enterprise Linux AS (a high-end server for enterprises), Enterprise Linux ES (an entry-level server) and Enterprise Linux WS (for workstations).

"Red Hat likes to live on the bleeding edge and bring new features to customers immediately," Quandt said, "unlike SuSE, for example, which likes to make sure all the bells and whistles work first."

Red Hat Network subscribers will have, on March 31, first crack at Red Hat Linux 9. It will be available in retail stores April 7 for $39.95; purchased in stores, the product comes with 30 days of support. Downloaded versions do not come with support. Red Hat Linux 9 Professional will be available for $149.95; it comes with 60 days of support and more applications and tools.

The aspect of Red Hat Linux 9 likely to grab the most attention is the inclusion of the Native POSIX Threading Library (NPTL). Programming threads handle simultaneous tasks. A white paper published in January, written by Red Hat's Ulrich Drepper and Ingo Molnar, explains that the Linux Threads Library implementing POSIX threads in the standard runtime environment of a Linux system cannot handle today's business demands. Drepper and Molnar said that POSIX was not written with the current extensions in mind, it does not scale well and it does not take modem processor architectures into consideration.

"Red Hat put the new threading library into this release because it likely wants to have a parallel to the release of the new kernel later this year," Quandt said.

Linus Torvalds has already announced that NPTL will be included in the 2.6 version of the Linux kernel.

Red Hat's Matt Wilson, manager of the company's base operating systems, said the company is trying to bring an enterprise-class library thread to Red Hat Linux.

"We are working on bringing this technology to a wider audience," Wilson said. He added that improved threading from NPTL improves the way servers handle databases, Java and desktop software like OpenOffice and Mozilla.

Wilson also said that Red Hat Linux 9 includes expansion of the Bluecurve interface to more areas like OpenOffice and Mozilla. Wilson said the company has also changed the default printing configuration to the Common Unix Printing System for better networking capability and support.

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