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Paul Salazar, Emea director of marketing for Red Hat, came to London yesterday to launch the latest version of its enterprise software based on the 2.6 Linux kernel. He said the release marked "a dramatic change" to previous releases.

The fourth version of Red Hat's software uses the 2.6 kernel for the first time. This improves general performance, I/O functions, networking, memory and storage. It also includes "Security-enhanced Linux" developed with the US' National Security Agency. The firm is also extending support from five to seven years in response to customer requests.

Werner Knoblich, a director at Red Hat, said: "In 2002 Linux arrived in the enterprise. In 2003 it beat Unix for reliability and value. In 2004 we see the end of the proprietary platform."

Knoblich said: "I don't get asked if Linux is ready for the enterprise any more. The buyer profile is changing - we're seeing more mainstream customers and seeing existing customers expand the work they are doing on Linux."

Knoblich said the firm was focussing on the two vertical markets it has done best in, financial services and telcos. He said its main competitor in these markets is Sun: "There is no reason to stay on Solaris now - we can either match the technology already or will be able to soon."

The firm is further targetting Sun with planned changes to the Red Hat Network - its management tool. The changes will make migrating from Solaris to Red Hat easier. It should be available by the end of the second quarter of 2005.

Red Hat claims 584,200 cumulative reported subscriptions. It is available in 15 languages and is supported in 177 countries, Red Hat has a direct presence in 18 countries.

More details should be on the Red Hat website here. ®

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