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Red Hat Strikes Back With Next Generation Linux

Red Hat  released the latest version of its Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL) flagship product today with a flurry of new features, upgrades and improvements.

The RHEL 5 release comes as Red Hat faces a multi-front battle in the operating systems space against rivals Microsoft, Novell and Oracle. In this release, Red Hat is touting new virtualization, security, storage and application options that it hopes will keep it ahead of competitors making a run for Red Hat's market share.

Paul Cormier, executive vice president of engineering at Red Hat, called it not just the next release of the operating system, but the next generation for Red Hat. "We've got a much bigger story to tell," Cormier said during a Webcast today.

Virtualization is a key new aspect of RHEL 5, which has been under development for the past 18 months. It includes a fully integrated server virtualization capability that extends throughout the operating system and is fully manageable. New capabilities added to Red Hat's Network management solutions extend it to enable the detection, management and creation of new virtualized RHEL guests.

The SELinux implementation assets got a big security overhaul in this release, too. SELinux implements mandatory access controls on the kernel, which allows programs to run with only necessary permissions. The general idea is that by improving access control overall, security is improved.

By contrast, the SELinux implementation in the prior version of REHL was considered by many to be difficult to implement because it lacked an exhaustive list of targeted policies for application deployments.

In addition to the regular version of RHEL, Red Hat is also branching out with environment-specific versions. For example, Red Hat Advanced Platform is geared for mission-critical server deployments. Another release called the Red Hat Datacenter Solution is a turnkey platform for helping datacenters migrate to open source.

The company said its Red Hat Database Availability Solution is all about making databases such as Oracle, Sybase, MySQL EnterpriseDB, IBM's DB2 and others more reliable in a clustered database system.

High performance environments will get the Red Hat High Performance Computing Solution targeted for their specific distributed computing needs.

In addition to all the different offerings, Red Hat is also making it easier for users to get the applications they want running on RHEL with the new Red Hat Exchange (RHX). RHX moves Red Hat into the application stack business by providing users with both the infrastructure and the business application software.

A lot has changed in the release, as well as in Linux world since Red Hat's last major release, RHEL 4, two years ago.

Microsoft has since partnered with Red Hat's arch rival Novell on an agreement that includes interoperability and marketing initiatives between the companies' server lines.

Plus, Red Hat's longtime partner, Oracle, announced last fall that it would offer its own supported version of Linux, helping to send shares of Red Hat tumbling the day the news broke.

Oracle already had hundreds of millions invested in the Linux market prior to its move to offer enhanced Linux support; its latest move for more of Red Hat's market share had the industry talking.

But the number one Linux distributor is also pushing back, not just with today's latest advances in RHEL 5, but by touting its strength with a community Linux distribution, Red Hat Fedora 6, which recently passed the two million user milestone.