Red Hat opens fed unit

Red Hat, one of the major distributors of the open source Linux operating system, formally launched a federal government division today at an event in Washington, D.C. Although the company's products are already used in federal settings, the company now will have a division devoted to the sector.

The presence of Linux has greatly increased in government since the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux in 2002. Every cabinet-level agency uses it in some way or other, said Paul Smith, newly appointed vice president of government sales operations.

Now the company is increasing the security capabilities of the system to create an enterprise-ready "SELinux," a security-enhanced version. "We spent a lot of time making sure that the operational source code we bring down and productize adheres to those standards," he said.

However, agency officials are still reluctant to step away from well-known proprietary systems, said Dendy Young, chief executive officer at GTSI, a reseller and Red Hat partner.

The more adventurous agency leaders are "finding places to use this technology," he said. "These people are all pioneers. It's important to recognize that. Some of them are fighting battles within their own agencies."

Linux is most suited for use on servers and in high-performance cluster settings, said Don Heffernan, a private consultant and former chief information officer at the General Services Administration's Federal Supply Service. It does not threaten Microsoft Windows as a desktop operating system in the United States, he said, although it is more widely used on the desktop in other countries.

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