Red Hat expands Linux server, partners with Amazon

5.1 upgrade supports broader virtualization, software appliances and computing in the cloud

Red Hat is updating its Linux-based server operating system and offering a number of other related improvements aimed at helping the company assume a leadership role in enterprise computing. The enhancements include support for software appliances, improved virtualization, and a partnership with Amazon's compute "in the cloud" service that lets companies tap additional computing capacity on demand via the Web and access software-as-a service offerings.

The strategy should "more than double our market share to power more than 50 percent of the world's servers by 2015. That's our goal," said Paul Cormier, vice president of worldwide engineering for Red Hat.

Red Hat launched Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.1 Wednesday, the first significant upgrade of its RHEL 5 operating system introduced in March. The upgrade and other related initiatives comprise Red Hat's Linux Automation strategy. Key features include the following:

  • Broader deployment of RHEL to virtual and physical servers and across a broad array of server platforms, including x86, x86-64, POWER, Itanium and mainframe servers.

  • The ability for independent software vendors to deliver appliance-based solutions through the Red Hat Appliance Operating System to be certified for deployment on RHEL.

  • A beta release of RHEL through the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) on-demand utility computing service. Amazon provides additional computing capacity to enterprises on a pay-per-minute use basis and now enterprises can access RHEL through the service.
The RHEL upgrades are designed to address the challenges CIOs face from their companies to expand network capability with a flat IT budget, said Scott Crenshaw, vice president of Enterprise Linux for Red Hat.

"We believe [this] will provide answers to the challenges CIOs face today by providing an infrastructure designed at its core for automation, where you can run any application anywhere at any time," Crenshaw said on a Webcast devoted to the news.

Thousands of software applications are certified to run on RHEL, but hundreds more are offered each day and the goal of Red Hat's Linux Automation strategy is to certify them once to run on physical or virtual servers or on Amazon, Crenshaw said.

"It's our road map to extend the open source platform to eliminate the discontinuities that exist today in infrastructure silos," he said.

RHEL 5, with its virtualization capability, has been deployed on more than 18,000 servers since it was introduced in March, although company officials could not detail how widely virtualization is used in various enterprises. Crenshaw said, anecdotally, that it is being used in production environments, running databases, ERP systems and transaction processing.

Red Hat is reaching out to software appliance makers with a new Red Hat Appliance OS and an appliance development kit, says Brian Stevens, Red Hat's CTO.

A software appliance is a product that includes the code for that specific application but also just the few elements of operating system code needed to run that appliance. Red Hat is accommodating software appliances as long as the applications are RHEL certified, Stevens says. Once certified, they can run on bare metal, in a virtualized server, or in the cloud. The RHEL Appliance OS and appliance development kit will be available sometime in the first half of next year.

But other appliances will not easily run in a Red Hat environment if they are not RHEL certified.

"Other solutions out there for an appliance generate a home grown Linux and that just doesn't scale in the enterprise," Stevens says. "It introduces manageability problems, it introduces security problems. Our solution addresses that with a certified appliance."

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