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First Look: Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5

Two years in the making, RHEL 5 is finally ready. The result? With Xen, SELinux, the Red Hat Global File System, and more, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 raises the bar for commercial Linux. We break down the new features and walk you through creating your first virtual machine.

Creating a Virtual Machine

Next, let’s try to create a virtual machine on two different computers. The first is the Xeon- based IBM x3950 rackmount server[ that was reviewed recently in Linux Magazine]; the second is a generic, Pentium III computer.

Figure One, taken from the x3950, allows you to choose either paravirtualization or full virtualization, since the hardware supports virtual machines. Figure Two, however, indicates that the processor lacks virtualization features, and provides only the paravirtualization option.

FIGURE ONE: If your hardware supports virtualization, you can choose the virtualization method

FIGURE TWO: Older processors lack virtualization support; however, you can run paravirtualized machines

Next, you must name your virtual machine. This is not a hostname; rather, choose a name that describes the purpose of the machine. You also need access to an image of the operating system to install in the virtual machine — you can choose a local file or a file located on the Internet. FTP and HTTP URLs are supported. You must also specify a disk space quota, a memory quota, and a processor quota. The exact settings for the latter three parameters may reflect a physical system you’re replacing with a virtual one. Figure Three shows the memory and processor allocation dialog. Figure Four pictures Fedora Core being installed on a virtual machine.

FIGURE THREE: Each virtual machine has a memory and processor quota

FIGURE FOUR: Installing Fedora Core on a virtual machine

Packs a Wallop

There’s a lot to like in RHEL5:

  • The integration of Xen stands to make a fantastic difference in enterprise machine rooms. Using virtualization, the same number of jobs can be accomplished with fewer machines. In other cases, expensive, systems can be replaced with commodity hardware. After all, if you can migrate work from one machine to another in milliseconds, do you really need a system with two power supplies? Fewer, cheaper machines saves money.

  • In addition to software features, Red Hat offers RHEL5 with a 7-year support plan. Red Hat has promised to back RHEL 5 with security updates and support services for seven years. The company also warrants that RHEL5’s APIs will not change over its lifetime, so software that works now will continue to work, even as updates happen to the system. You don’t have to worry about upgrades every two or three years. Red Hat also offers compatibility libraries so almost all software from the previous two Red Hat releases will run under RHEL5.

  • RHEL5 makes SELinux manageable, and includes the Red Hat Global File System.

Red Hat also promises fast response time on critical bugs. As of this writing, the vendor claimed that all critical bugs found during the last eighteen months have been resolved within 48 hours.

For direct support, Red Hat provides assistance per subscription: you pay a fixed amount, but get unlimited support calls. Pay-per-incident is available from some of Red Hat’s partners, such as Hewlett-Packard. For employers who want staff to have demonstrated knowledge of Red Hat products, Red Hat offers three, well-respected certification programs. eLearning courses are available online, too.

So, what’s not to like about RHEL 5?

  • Linux runs on a massive range of systems. The server version of RHEL5 supports the most popular systems, namely, i 386, ia64, POWER, s390x, and x86_64, but the client version works only on i386 and x86_64.

  • Because RHEL5 is open source, the distribution doesn’t include some proprietary codecs.

As this issue of Linux Magazine went to press, pricing for the various versions of RHEL5 had not been finalized, but Nick Carr, a Red Hat Marketing Manager, commented that prices would be competitive.

An industry-leading enterprise Linux distribution at competitive prices — what more can a CIO ask for?

Editor note: This article was based on RHEL5 Release Candidate 1.

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