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Red Hat Makes Virtualization Push In Enterprise Linux

The release comes in two versions: the Advanced Platform for server deployments, and an Enterprise Desktop.

Red Hat on Wednesday introduced the latest version of its Enterprise Linux platform, adding technology that reflects a major push on the part of the open-source vendor into virtualization.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 incorporates Xen virtualization software, which has been integrated with the Linux kernel. Red Hat has been working on Xen for the last two years with IBM and the development community of the open-source technology.

Enterprise Linux 5 comes in two versions: the Advanced Platform for server deployments, and an Enterprise Desktop. The server platform can run on either an AMD64 Opteron processor or a Quad-Core Intel Xeon chip.

The hardware support provides the foundation for Red Hat's virtualization strategy. The company sees immediate demand for virtualization to run multiple instances of an operating system on one server to better use processing power, said Iain Gray, VP of global support services. In the future, Red Hat sees the use of its platform in service-oriented architectures.

In that arena, Red Hat isn't alone, competing with BEA Systems, IBM, Sun Microsystems, Tibco, and other infrastructure vendors with the same vision, said Brad Shimmin, an analyst for Current Analysis. Red Hat and the others, however, are ahead of the customer curve, since companies are just starting to ramp up use of SOAs, a form of distributed computing that ties application components through the use of standards-based interfaces. Companies hope to eventually be able to expose application functions as services, so they can be reused in strings to automate a variety of business processes.

In time, heavily used services would have to be virtualized to run on a separate processor, to prevent a slowdown, Shimmin said. "Once developers start using and reusing services, you can put yourself in a bind by adding too much stress," he said. "Over time, bam, you're now maxing out, and your latency is rising."

While customers' use of SOAs hasn't caught up with the features in Enterprise Linux 5, Red Hat has done the right thing by getting the technology in the operating system sooner, rather than later. "It's an important step for them to stay in line with the competition," Shimmin said. "I don't view this as a market mover immediately, but it's an important step, given where the market is going."

Along with the technology releases, Red Hat introduced a variety of services, including open-source software, consulting, and training for companies that want to use Enterprise Linux 5 to run a data center or database, or for high-performance computing.

In addition, Red Hat is offering to be the single point of contact for customers who run into trouble with either Red Hat software, or any of its partners' applications. Red Hat also launched Red Hat Exchange, which Gray described as an "open-source marketplace" for partners' products.

"Red Hat will sell the applications on top of Enterprise Linux," Gray said. "We'll essentially be a channel to market for those partners, but will also be a single point of support for customers."

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