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Red Hat Releases Enterprise Linux Beta, Rejects Deal With Microsoft

Ballmer said Microsoft was ready to cut a deal with Red Hat similar to the one it struck with Linux seller Novell last week. But Red Hat isn't interested.

A day after Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer held out both a carrot and a stick to Red Hat, the Linux distributor on Friday announced Beta 2 of Enterprise Linux and rejected Ballmer's offer.

Set to go final in early 2007, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 boasts integrated virtualization features that work with the server software's clustering functions. In a server crash, for instance, the failover can be conducted at either the application or virtual machine level.

"The incorporation of virtualization technologies into operating system software is a major industry development that will have long-term impact on how customers design their computer infrastructure, how they deploy, and how they plan for scalability, availability, and continuity," said Al Gillen, an IDC research VP, in a statement.

Beta 2 can be downloaded from the Red Hat site by current customers and partners.

Thursday, Microsoft's Ballmer said that the Redmond, Wash. developer was ready to cut a deal with Red Hat similar to the one it struck with Linux seller Novell last week. "We are willing to do the same deal with Red Hat Linux and other Linux distributors," Ballmer was quoted by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer during a Q&A at an SQL database conference.

The Microsoft-Novell agreement includes patent protections, support cooperation, and co-development agreements, although analysts have pegged the $482 million deal as essentially patent related. In the past, Microsoft has held the threat of patent infringement lawsuits over the heads of open-source users.

"In a sense, you could say anybody who has got Linux in their data center today sort of has an undisclosed balance sheet liability," Ballmer said Thursday.

"What we agreed [in the Novell deal] is we'll continue to try to grow Windows share at the expense of Linux. But to the degree that people are going to deploy Linux, we want SuSE Linux to have the highest percent share of that, because only a customer who has SuSE Linux actually has paid properly for the use of intellectual property from Microsoft," Ballmer added.

Friday, Red Hat brushed off Ballmer.

"We do not believe there is a need for or basis for the type of relationship defined in the Microsoft-Novell announcement," said Mark Webbink, Red Hat's deputy general counsel, in an e-mail. "[But] Red Hat has and will continue to work with Microsoft on true interoperability and open standards in the way we did in advising them in the development of their Open Specification Promise."

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