Now and Xen: RHEL 5 Beta Gets Virtual

Linux vendor warms up to the technology but product likely won't ship until 2007.

Red Hat released Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5 into open beta this week with Xen-enabled virtualization integrated into the code. Company spokespersons said the goal with integrating Xen is to bring virtualization to the “mass market.” To accomplish that, the Linux vendor is putting a great deal of effort into improving the user experience of using Xen over the existing solution within the Fedora Core 4.0, which Red Hat CTO, Brian Stevens, called an “arduous environment.” Support for Xen by Red Hat so soon should come as something of a surprise since the company reportedly kicked the XenSource solution to the curb last month.

Red Hat said they chose to hold off on integrating Xen until now in order to test the readiness of the technology. That readiness was seriously questioned in early August when Red Hat VP Alex Pinchev told ZDNet Australia, “[Xen] is not stable yet, it’s not ready for the enterprise.”

What’s changed? Certainly the market has perked up for virtual solutions. Novell has been shipping its virtualization-ready offering, SLES 10, based on Xen, since July. Add to this the fact that the buzz around virtualization on the floor of last month’s LinuxWorld subsumed practically every other message there. As one vendor put it to us, “You have companies here selling cable and talking about virtualization. It’s ridiculous, but gives you an idea of just how much interest there is in the technology.”

Novell’s early jump garnered considerable press but the virtualization market is still just developing and many SLES 10 pilots will likely run alongside RHEL 5 while enterprises determine how best to put the technology into practice.

In the meantime, integrating hypervisor will have an internal impact on Red Hat. The company also announced this week that the product timetable for RHEL 5 was changing in order to further test the Xen integration. Customers should expect the published product launch date of Dec. 21 to be pushed out.

In addition to Xen, the RHEL 5 beta also includes an improved installer, Infiniband support, Kexec and Kdump, and smartcard integration.

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