Red Hat: Colleges Opening Doors Wide to Linux

The technology that college students are going back to this year is increasingly connected to the open source Linux operating system, says Red Hat, which is highlighting the growing adoption of its open source software and network solutions at institutions of higher learning.

Like large enterprises, many colleges and universities have converted much of their legacy Unix infrastructure to Linux, and they are increasingly using Linux for research projects that require high-performance computing. Also, there is a new generation of geeks who know and love Linux and are actively promoting its adoption, Red Hat National Sales Manager for Education John Punzak told LinuxInsider.

Linux is making its way deeper into university IT infrastructures and increasingly is the system of choice for more advanced applications.

“We’re moving out of the fringe of networks and moving into higher-level, mission critical computing,” Punzak said.

Student Discount

More and more schools — both K through 12 and college level — have higher computing needs because of growing enrollments, an increase in digital learning offerings, the distribution of applications served by a single infrastructure, and more tightly integrated institutional networks, Red Hat pointed out. At the same time, schools are under their usual cost pressures, and they are finding that Linux is a logical low-cost, high-performance solution that meets many of their computing requirements.

In an effort to capture the educational market, Red Hat has established specially priced subscriptions and services. By the end of this year’s second quarter, the company had about 600 schools slated to use its Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Network or other products, Punzak reported.

The number of schools Red Hat counts as customers — mostly colleges and universities — should surpass 3,000 by the end of the fiscal year, he added.

This trend is being fueled in part by broader and better support for Linux from other solution providers, such as Oracle.”We’re the real deal now,” Punzak remarked.

Power and Savings for School

Schools are turning to Linux to obtain the cost savings of commodity hardware compared to older, proprietary Unix servers, Punzak explained, noting that existing Unix skills transfer well to Linux.

Colleges and universities are also tapping into the power of Linux server clusters, which can produce the supercomputing performance required for high-end scientific research and business computing, Red Hat indicated.

At Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, for example, a Red Hat Enterprise Linux solution was estimated to be 60 percent less expensive than a continuation and update of the school’s existing HP-UX infrastructure, said Kevin McDonald, Vanderbilt program manager for system administration.

“We saw lower [total cost of ownership] in three areas — initial acquisition of hardware; software purchasing, which is usually priced according to platform; and system administration — because our skills easily transferred,” McDonald said.

Big Linux on Campus

Colleges and universities have a long history with Unix, and the ability to transfer Unix skills to commodity hardware and free software makes Linux a logical choice, Illuminata Senior Analyst Gordon Haff told LinuxInsider.

Haff pointed out that use of Linux at high-performance computing centers and among students in general translates into greater market acceptance on the enterprise side.

College campuses are a likely place to find not only major distributions of Linux such as Red Hat and Novell’s Suse, he noted, but also more community-driven distributions, including Ubuntu, Debian, Gentoo and others.

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