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Red Hat Enterprise 5, with Xen, launches

After a slight delay, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 launched with full Xen virtualization support.

Today was Red Hat's big day as it launched the latest version of its signature product, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.

Besides Xen, some new features in RHEL 5 include:
  • Support for quad-core processors like Intel's Xeon 5300
  • On the desktop, 3D graphics based on AIGLX and Compiz
  • Increased file system size from 8 terabytes to 16 TB

Some of the improvements stressed by company executives during a live webcast of the launch event in San Francisco included server, server virtualization and client components. "This is truly the next-generation operating system," said Paul Cormier, Red Hat Inc. vice president of engineering. "This is not just an upgrade."

Cormier said pricing for RHEL5 would be "exactly the same" as Advance Server (AS) and Enterprise Server (ES) pricing. Red Hat's Web site lists pricing for the standard edition of those platforms at $799 and $2,499 per system, respectively.

Red Hat servers and desktops

On the server side, the release of RHEL5 eliminated the Advanced Server (AS) and Enterprise Server (ES) server variants. ES customers can download the new Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 bits immediately, and their subscriptions will move to the new name when they renew. Subscriptions and pricing will remain the same.

As was made previously known before RHEL5's launch, the upgrade will also include server virtualization, supporting up to four guest operating system environments. Like ES, RHEL5 will support servers with up to two processor sockets.

The Xen hypervisor is now embedded in RHEL5 and was billed as a key feature by Red Hat. Xen, an open source virtualization technology that lets a single machine run multiple operating systems in separate partitions called virtual machines, can replace many inefficient servers running a single application each with one powerful server running many virtualized applications. Xen was embedded in competing OS Novell SUSE Enterprise Linux in mid-2006.

A question about interoperability between Red Hat and Microsoft Windows posed by site editor Jan Stafford during a Q&A session following the launch event revealed there is still work and testing to be done in Raleigh on that topic.

"We've tested Windows on top of our virtual platform. It works," Cormier said. "You will see from us some level of support for Windows on our platforms in the coming months. We're not prepared to do it now."

Cormier could not say the same for a Red Hat guest on Windows virtualization. "Our guest on a Microsoft platform -- a lot of that is up to Microsoft. We don't control the Microsoft platform, so it's up to them. But you'll see us support Microsoft guests down the road," he said.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop now includes two new options: Workstation and Multi OS. The former adds server packages for use in workgroup environments and supports large client systems. The multiple OS option adds virtualization to Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop and allows up to four guests to be configured including Microsoft Windows. However, during the webcast, executives stressed that Red Hat cannot actually support Windows, but that it will certainly make best efforts to ensure that the Red Hat Enterprise Linux hypervisor provides a solid platform on which you could deploy Windows 2000/2003 Server, XP and Vista.

Red Hat Exchange

Mike Evans, Red Hat vice president of partner development, took his time on the stage to announce a new program called Red Hat Exchange (RHX).

Evans said this ISV program will launch later in the year and will be a central repository for the open source applications developed by vendors like EnterpriseDB, Alfresco, SugarCRM and Zimbra. Evans described the program as a place to sell a wide range of CRM, systems management, databases and collaboration technologies. Software will be selected and judged by the users via a rating system similar to one used by, he said.

Open source support policy

Ian Gray, Red Hat vice president of support, said a new goal for the company was to redefine the support model using the lessons learned developing open source software.

"We want to return control of vendor relations to the customer with transparency, sharing knowledge and collaboration," he said. "If we ship the bits, we support the bits."

Gray also revealed Red Hat's new one-page customer support document. "No more legalese," he said. "No more support technicians saying customers are trying to do something with our product that we don't support."

The other guys

The launch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 may very well be all about Xen, but that didn't stop a slew of vendors, analysts and users from wading into the pool for their take on the Raleigh, N.C.-based commercial Linux vendor's big event.

Sun Microsystems Inc., long in the precarious position of selling both Linux and its homegrown Solaris 10 operating system on Sun Galaxy servers, for example, was quick to offer up praise for RHEL5 while at the same time pointing out its lack of Sun-stamped features like DTrace, Containers and predictive self-healing.

Larry Wake, Sun Microsystems group manager for Solaris, told that anything Red Hat does with its operating system is going to be a boon for his company. "Red Hat Linux is in our quiver; and improvements on their part help out customers." According to Framingham, Mass.-based IDC's 2006 Server Tracker reports, Linux ships pre-configured on 50% to 60% of all Sun Galaxy servers.

And while Red Hat was launching RHEL5, the OpenVZ project announced the immediate availability of its operating system server virtualization software for the RHEL5 kernel. OpenVZ is open source software that is used as the basis for SWsoft's Virtuozzo virtualization software product.

The RHEL5 kernel is a modified 2.6.18 kernel, which includes:

  • driver support and bug fixes, including SATA, SCSI, Ethernet, Infiniband, wireless;
  • core subsystem bug fixes and improvements, such as networking, file systems, memory management.

IBM also got in on the act by announcing that developers at its Linux Technology Center had collaborated with Red Hat to integrate virtualization features and security enhancements into the latest version of the Linux kernel.

Tellus what you think of this story. Email Jack Loftus, News Writer or visit our new blog at Enterprise Linux Log.

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