Red Hat 5.1 To Improve Virtualization, Windows Support


Even as Microsoft and Novell collaborate on interoperability, Red Hat is wasting no time enhancing the Xen virtualization and Windows integration capabilities of its recently released Linux distribution.

In October, the Raleigh, N.C., Linux leader will make available Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.1, the first update of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5. Version 5 shipped March 14.

The RHEL 5.1 and subsequent RHEL 5.2 releases will be "virtualization and security" focused, said Daniel Riek, a product manager for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, during a presentation at Red Hat Summit on Wednesday. They will offer better integration with Windows via a new version of Samba, better integration with Active Directory, paravirtualized Windows drivers and eventual support for fully virtualized Windows guests.

The 5.1 release this fall, and follow-on 5.2 updates due in early 2008, will also offer backports for newer versions of the Xen hypervisor, improved support for HVM guests, hot migration support, support for larger systems, and more tools for writing SE Linux policies.

The Linux leader also plans to improve storage virtualization by adding an iSCSI target driver for virtualized platforms, Riek said.

Red Hat executives said they are keeping an eye on another open source hypervisor gaining notoriety called KVM, which is used in the Ubuntu Linux distribution. KVM is currently being tested in Red Hat's Fedora unsupported open source Linux distribution on which RHEL is based.

At the summit, several attendees say they are moving ahead with RHEL 5's virtualization features even though the product shipped only weeks ago.

Jim Klein, director of information services and technology for the Saugus Union School District in Santa Clarita, Calif., is using XenSource's XenEnterprise for virtualizing Windows, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 for virtualizing Linux workloads -- but his plan is to move all virtualization to Red Hat Linux after version 5.1 ships.

Bill Phillips, a senior network coordinator at Robinson Nevada Mining Company who also attended the Red Hat Summit, said he deployed RHEL 5's virtualization features, but needs stronger integration with Active Directory because of his company's Windows environment.

ISVs such as VMware and Virtual Iron tout their virtualization platforms as best-of-breed because of the added value in usability and advanced management features in their platforms. ISV XenSource is also working on these advanced management capabilities in its next version.

Still, several Red Hat attendees are confident that Red Hat will offer a similar level of management as VMware's Virtual Infrastructure in the future. Many of the capabilities are buried in the code, but will be exposed and made easy to deploy, Klein said.

There is a compelling reason for them to use a built-in hypervisor in the operating system: cost.

Texas A&M is evaluating different virtualization platforms, but prefers the less expensive, built-in Xen virtualization in the Red Hat Linux distribution, said another Red Hat attendee.

"You have to get into virtualization," said Philip Hale, a systems programmer at Texas A&M campus in Corpus Christi. "This way you don't have to pay for a third party application."

Even as Microsoft and Novell advance their interoperability agenda, customers and partners are confident that Red Hat will also offer a high degree of support for Windows in virtualized environments. Moreover, it will likely be interoperable with Microsoft's planned "Viridian" hypervisor, which will be compatible with the Xen hypervisor, Klein predicted.

He and others say, for example, the adoption of the GPL 3 will put an end to private arrangements such as the Microsoft-Novell pact and put interoperability back on an open source path.

Red Hat's licensing makes Xen virtualization more economically compelling than VMware or other platforms, executives said at the summit.

The standard edition of its enterprise Linux, for example, supports up to four virtual instances at no additional cost; the advanced version supports an unlimited number of virtual machines. Customers that use VMware with Red Hat's enteprise version are limited to 10 instances, executives noted.