November 19, 1998 4:00 AM PST

Linux trading tuxedo for business suit?

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The familiar Linux penguin may switch its outfit from a tuxedo to a three-piece suit should two major distributors succeed with plans to improve support for the upstart operating system in the corporate world.

Red Hat will offer a version of Linux for corporate servers beginning in December, and will offer round-the-clock support for "mission-critical" Red Hat systems beginning in January. Rival SuSE will add technical support and training for its products starting in January.

Linux, a freely distributed operating system derived from Unix, is already popular in academic, computer science, and research circles, and is gaining a foothold in businesses as well. Begun by Finnish computer scientist Linus Torvalds, the OS has grown with the contributions of countless other programmers, any of whom are free to modify the original code.

Though Linux is free, several companies make money packaging the operating system with Linux software and providing support.

Red Hat's support plan will come in packages for 10 or 25 incidents, or as an annual subscription. The platinum-level subscription is good for an unlimited number of incidents, 24 hours a day.

Red Hat also will add an authorized reseller program to make it easier for computer system builders to put Linux on their machines. The reseller program will have two tiers, one for system builders putting together corporate systems that come with product support, and one for consultants who deliver custom solutions.

The North Carolina Source code for the masses company's new products are the System Builder Edition, designed for builders preinstalling Red Hat Linux on corporate servers, and the Commercial Server Edition, the same thing but with 90 days of 24-hour technical support.

SuSE will offer two tiers of support, 24-hour Premium Support from SuSE itself, and Partner Support with third-party Linux organizations such as LinuxCare. The corporate support has been successful in SuSE's European distributions since 1995.

SuSE also will be offering corporate training for its Linux products through Muster Learning Architects in Berkeley, California.


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