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Linux 2.4: It’s Here!


Latest and long awaited kernel is finally here and it will please the enthusiasts, but don’t rush to install on to your business servers.

It’s here! It’s here! Linux 2.4 has arrived and Linux fans are beside themselves with joy. If you have friends who love Linux you can forget about seeing them for the next week. They’ll be busy overloading broadband Internet connections downloading the new 2.4.0 kernel and compiling it.

Yes, it’s a great day for Linux enthusiasts. For users with personal systems, Linux 2.4 brings more device and Universal Serial Bus support. For administrators, Linux 2.4’s big news is that it makes Linux much more scalable. This going-on-a-year-late operating system is the one that should fulfill every Linux enthusiast’s–not to mention IBM’s–dream of Linux being a full-fledged enterprise operating system.

It just isn’t going to happen today — or this month — or this quarter.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as pleased as punch that Linux 2.4 is here. I know where I’m going to be spending my time over the next few days. I’m going to be bringing my test bed Caldera 2.4 beta machine and two other test machines to 2.4 status.

What I’m not doing? And neither should businesses is taking my production Linux systems to 2.4. My VA Linux workstation running Red Hat 6.2 and my Corel PC are sticking with 2.2.x kernels. And on my production server I’m sticking with Caldera’s OpenLinux eServer 2.3 for now.

Why? Because, even after thousands, no, tens of thousands of programmers and beta testers have worked on 2.4, I know there will be bugs. Heck, I can read the Linux developers lists as well as anyone, I know there are bugs.

And, frankly, I don’t upgrade to any .0 release for exactly that reason.

For now, Linux 2.4 is for the adventuresome, the Linux lover — not someone whose bottom line depends on Linux. Besides, even after Linux 2.4 ages well, most users won’t get that much more from it anyway. Yes, Linux 2.4’s new device support is a win. But if you don’t have any of these devices on your PC, you’re not going to see much of an improvement.

So what’s the big deal then? The big deal is that Linux’s vastly improved support for clustering, multiple processors and memory are great news — for enterprise level servers. If you’re dealing with a basic Intel box as either workstation or server, Linux 2.4 isn’t that big a deal.

And if you do have top servers, you need more than just a high end kernel. You need programs that support the kernel’s new functionality, and those aren’t here yet.

Besides, if you’re serious about business Linux, you need the support of serious Linux vendors. Except for SuSE, they — Caldera Systems, Red Hat and TurboLinux–aren’t going to be releasing 2.4 kernels for their commercial products for a while yet.

To put it in terms of Microsoft operating systems, for most PC Linux users, the jump from a Linux 2.2.x to a 2.4 kernel will be similar to that from Windows 98 to Windows 98 Second Edition. Good, but no reason to spend the next 48 hours installing it unless you love the stuff with the passion. For server use, the Linux jump is much bigger; it’s like the leap from NT to W2K Advanced Server. But like Advanced Server, to get the most from it, you need the applications and support in place before making the jump.

The final answer is that while it’s exciting news for technologists, the Linux excitement for business deployments is still months away.

A version of this story was first published in Ziff Davis’ Sm@rt Partner.

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