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Operating System Support: How Long Does Yours Last?

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Key to any operating system buying decision is its lifespan for support and maintenance updates. As it turns out, most of the major operating system vendors offer support lengths that, on the surface, don't differ radically from each other -- though there are exceptions to the rule that IT managers need to keep in mind if they're going to get the most support for their dollar.

An investigation conducted by has determined that many Unix, Windows and Linux operating system vendors now have an average of 10 years of support length, though that hasn't always been the case for at least one major player.

Earlier this month, for instance, Linux vendor Red Hat announced a new Extended Lifecycle Support (ELS) offering. With ELS, Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) is extending its seven years of support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) for an additional three years, to a maximum of 10 years of total support.

In Red Hat's case, the ELS offering comes as RHEL 3 approaches its end-of-life later this year -- a potentially critical event for enterprises still relying on the OS, which debuted in October 2003.

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