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Martin LaMonica

Staff Writer, CNET

Novell and Red Hat, the leading Linux distributors, are preparing major upgrades to their respective server product lines for release within the next two months.

By the end of February, Novell intends to release Novell Open Enterprise Server, a product aimed at helping its NetWare customers move to Linux. The company is expected to announce the pricing and shipping date of the product at the LinuxWorld conference in Boston in mid-February.

Meanwhile, Red Hat has said it will release Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, the company’s flagship Linux server operating-system package, this winter. The company is planning to hold a press conference at LinuxWorld, but a company representative on Wednesday declined to say whether Red Hat will announce the availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 at the event.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 will be the first version of the server operating system based on version 2.6 of the Linux kernel. It will include support for Security-Enhanced Linux, a set of security-related utilities stemming from research at the National Security Agency that’s designed to make the software more immune to attacks. It will also enable the use of wireless-networking chips from Intel, according to an e-mail list for the beta program of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.

Last summer, Novell released its direct competitor to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which is called SuSE Enterprise Linux Server 9. That Linux server package is based on version 2.6 of the Linux kernel and is bundled with the JBoss Java application server.

Novell Open Enterprise Server, which was originally scheduled for release by the end of 2004, is a package that includes SuSE Enterprise Linux 9 as well as a copy of NetWare, Novell’s operating system, which it has been developing since the 1980s.

The release is designed to capture existing NetWare customers considering a move to Linux or those who, over the past few years, dropped NetWare in favor of Microsoft’s Windows, said Charlie Ungashick, director of product management and marketing for Novell’s servers and desktops.

Novell is making network administration tools that have been available on NetWare–such as security and a directory–run on Linux. It is providing a single management console for both servers. Novell will also ease administration by better integrating with other open-source packages for file sharing and printing with both operating systems, Ungashick said.

The network administration tools inherited from NetWare will make Linux more suitable for large-scale deployments, he added.

Novell intends to release SuSE Enterprise Linux 10 in February 2006. The follow-on release of Open Enterprise Server, code-named Cypress, is slated for delivery in August 2006. The company also intends to release relatively minor updates, or service packs, for both products every six months.

CNET’s Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.