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4/27/2010
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Red Hat Loosens Enterprise Linux Restrictions

Enterprise Linux customers with premium support get an open gateway to use on Amazon's EC2.

In a bid to simplify cloud computing for its large customers, Red Hat has announced that subscribers to Red Hat Enterprise Linux with premium support may move their instances between on-premises and in-the-cloud without modifying their license agreements.

This will facilitate keeping Enterprise Linux, whether in the cloud or on-premises, in synch, by patching and updating the two at the same time.

Both measures are aimed at making it easier for enterprises already using a substantial number of Linux servers to gain access to public cloud data centers, such as Amazon Web Services' EC2, without renegotiating their Red Hat subscriptions or being confronted with a pricing scheme that differs from what they're already using.

The Cloud Access features of Red Hat Linux with Premium support reflect a growing tacit alliance between leading cloud provider Amazon and Red Hat as Microsoft's Azure cloud starts to gain some traction. Microsoft is expected to rapidly build out integrated features between its on-premises technologies and those in the Azure cloud.

Amazon and Red Hat are determined to maintain their own pace of integration, erasing barriers and easing access to using Enterprise Linux in the cloud.

"It's the same software, the same support mechanism, but now it's in Amazon's EC2," said Michael Ferris, director of product strategy for cloud computing.

Premium support provides 24-hour, 7-days-a-week technical support with the ability to escalate support issues if they are not quickly resolved. In contrast, Red Hat's previous technical support for use of Enterprise Linux in the cloud consisted of e-mail support only, with a time lapse of up to 48 hours.

Red Hat's view of cloud computing is beginning to be integrated with its ideas of how Enterprise Linux should be supplied to on-premises users. In its evolving view, the cloud isn't something totally different and used in isolation from the rest of enterprise operations. Rather, it is an extension of what Red Hat is already doing in the enterprise. Barriers need to be removed to allow Enterprise Linux to work in the cloud much as it does on-premises.

It's not just about a common subscription pricing, Ferris added. "We've added to the operational capability of what Red Hat provides in the cloud," with updates occurring there in an automated fashion, something like they do on-premises through the Red Hat Network update process from a central server patched by Red Hat.

The move contrasts to some extent with Red Hat's offering in the cloud, which Ferris termed a "beta" product even though it is about two years old. That offering is Enterprise Linux in EC2 at a rate of $.21 an hour, plus a $19 a month support contract. The support contract could cover many instances of Enterprise Linux running in EC2 for one customer, Ferris said in an interview.

If it covered only one, the support would drive up the hourly price. If it covered 100, it would make the price look reasonable. Customers in some cases may have scratched their heads over this combination when they tried to figure out whether to run a workload in the company data center under existing subscription or in EC2 under the hourly rate.

"We wanted to give customers choice about how they manage their update services," Ferris added. If a customer wants both cloud Enterprise Linux and on-premises Linux to be updated at the same time, it can do so from a satellite update server that it controls.

Premium annual subscriptions for Enterprise Linux are $1,299 for a server with up to two sockets; $2,499 for Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform capable of running on a server with more than two sockets.

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