Red Hat launches Linux RHEL5 for servers, desktops

The new operating system offers built-in virtualization capabilities

The latest versions of Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL5) operating system, unveiled Wednesday, offer long-awaited built-in virtualization capabilities from the open-source Xen project.

Red Hat isn't the first Linux operating system with built-in virtualization, however, since Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 received Xen 3.0 integration last July.

For Red Hat customers, though, Wednesday's debut is welcome news anyway, said Daniel Frye, vice president of open systems development with IBM, a Red Hat partner that helped with the integration. Until now, the small group of Red Hat customers who wanted virtualization had to incorporate it on their own, Frye said. "A much larger group wanted it in the distribution where they can just deploy it," he said.

Paul Cormier, Red Hat's executive vice president of engineering, said in a live product-launch webcast from San Francisco that RHEL5 is available in several iterations. A base version is available for small deployments, while the new RHEL5 Advanced Platform edition is designed for larger customers and includes the integrated server and storage virtualization technologies.

The base version will allow users to create up to four virtualized "guest" servers on one box and is aimed at smaller companies. It does not include integrated storage virtualization, said Nick Carr, marketing director for the company.

RHEL5 Advanced Platform, which is aimed at larger businesses, includes much broader virtualization capabilities, including an unlimited number of virtual guests limited only by the hardware it's running on, Carr said. The Advanced Platform version also includes storage virtualization capabilities, helping companies to cut storage costs, he said.

"There's an interesting market for both," Carr said.

Also debuting Wednesday is the company's RHEL5 desktop Linux operating system.

Cormier said that prices for the operating systems would be unchanged.

The new operating systems also offer new systems management features to make it easier to juggle the complexities of virtualized environments, as well as simplified standard service-level agreements and a joint customer support center with partners to make it easier for customers to get support, according to Red Hat. A new Red Hat Cooperative Resolution Center is also being created to make it easier for customers to get help with problems, regardless of which vendor's products are causing difficulties.

Red Hat also announced Wednesday the creation of a Red Hat Exchange unit that will provide pre-integrated business application software stacks, including infrastructure software from Red Hat and business application software from partner companies.

No specific date has been set for the launch of the exchange, which will be available later this year, Cormier said.

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Todd R. Weiss

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