Red Hat releases Xen-enabled beta

* Much-anticipated Xen-supported Enterprise Linux 5 beta available to RHN customers

Red Hat last week launched the beta version of Enterprise Linux 5, the first version of the company's enterprise-class operating system to include built-in virtualization technology.

The latest Red Hat server beta includes the Xen server virtualization stack, which allows users to deploy multiple Linux operating system images on top of a single server hardware platform. Virtualization is used widely on Red Hat Linux machines, but third-party tools such as VMWare are typically deployed. Virtualized servers allow for easier management and cheaper deployment of multiple servers, and take advantage of unused CPU and memory resources on larger systems.

The beta code is available only to Red Hat Network customers - users who subscribe to the company's software patching and updating service. Non-RHN customers must apply to receive the beta code through a beta release program, via Red Hat's Web site.

While the Xen-enabled RHEL5 is a good step for the Linux distributor, the virtualization move is a few steps behind the company's top rival Novell. In July, Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 10 shipped with virtualization code (see Network World's test of SLES 10).

Red Hat is also wrapping some new tools for speeding up server reboots, as well as some system analysis tools. But it's the Xen virtualization portion of RHEL 5 that's been most anticipated by the Red Hat community. When the production version ships, a Xen-off between Red Hat and Novell's SuSE should make for an interesting match in the lab.Next: A new NIC aimed at smoothing network I/O on virtualized servers.

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