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Feeling New Heat, Red Hat Rolls On - InternetNews.
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Feeling New Heat, Red Hat Rolls On

UPDATED: Heat? What heat?

Red Hat  may be facing new competition for Linux support from Oracle and a Microsoft/Novell partnership, but the number one Linux distributor is throwing some heat of its own.

Red Hat just released Beta 2 of its highly anticipated Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL) flagship product. It's expected to be the final beta before release candidates appear early next year.

It's not the only heat it threw today. In a release after the markets closed, the company said it filed an application to list its common stock on the New York Stock Exchange. The move is a blow to the tech-heavy NASDAQ market, where it's been listed since it went public in 1999. Red Hat's new ticker symbol is expected to be "RHT" when it starts trading on the NYSE on December 12.

In a statement, Charlie Peters, CFO at Red Hat, called the move "a significant event. We believe that listing on the New York Stock Exchange will increase Red Hat's visibility among investors, reduce trading volatility and offer more efficient pricing." Red Hat has a market value of over $3 billion.

As for the latest beta release of its flagship product, virtualization, security, file system and real time improvements are fresh in RHEL 5.

Virtualization is a key feature in this version with integrated Xen virtualization. Beyond just enabling virtualization for customers, Red Hat is aiming to provide additional stability and failover capabilities by including its Global File System(GFS), a clustered file storage system.

At its heart, RHEL 5 Beta 2 is powered by a Red Hat enhanced 2.6.18 Linux kernel (RHEL 4 included a 2.6.9 kernel).

Red Hat has a long history of including items in its enterprise kernel that are backported from upstream kernel development. This is important to enterprises for consistency and stability of their systems while upgrading them to the latest innovations.

"We've already taken things from 2.6.19 already for instance and backported into RHEL 5 beta," Joel Berman, a RHEL product marketing director, told internetnews.com. "Anything that makes sense that doesn't break any API's , we'll backport in." One such backport that Red Hat hopes to include in RHEL 5 is Real-Time support.

RHEL 5 Beta 2 also includes the SELinux Troubleshooter, which first appeared in Fedora Core 6. The SELinux implementation in RHEL 5 is expected to be much easier to deploy and maintain than what RHEL 4 users were used to. SELinux (Security Enhanced) implements mandatory access controls on the kernel.

The problem with SELinux, historically, had been that there were few targeted policies for applications running on RHEL, which made configuration difficult and ultimately led many users to simply to turn SELinux off.

In RHEL 5 Beta 2, Red Hat has dramatically increased the number of targeted SELinux policies to over 170 applications.

"Everything that needs a targeted policy will have one," Berman said. "So the standard RHEL 5 product set will probably not generate any policy exception so they'll be no need to not turn it on."

A Different World From Point to Point

A lot has changed since the last major release, RHEL 4 in February of 2005, as well as the first beta of RHEL 5.

Red Hat was battered in the financial markets after Oracle announced that it would be creating its own supported version of Linux. Then Novell set the industry on its ear with a Linux agreement with Microsoft.

Though RHEL 5 may be highly anticipated by its users, it's not necessarily a major revenue event for Red Hat. Nick Carr, a product marketing director for RHEL, said RHEL 5 is part of an existing user's subscription. "We're not held to a deadline because we need to get the dollars in by the end of the quarter," Carr told internetnews.com. "It's a technology and quality release event for us."

RHEL 5 Beta 2 comes on the heels of a successful roll out of Red Hat's Fedora Core 6 distribution, which has garnered more than 300,000 hosts in less than a month.

Although Fedora Core 6 is a non-revenue distribution, it's got hot word of mouth. Since its release just under a month ago, over 300,000 unique hosts are now using it, according to Fedora Core project leader Max Spevack.

Instead of measuring downloads, which can often yield an inaccurate number of actual user, Fedora is tracking the number of unique IP addresses that check in with Fedora's repositories for updates.

"This metric is much more useful than tracking downloads, because it demonstrates actual *installed instances* of FC6 that are making a connection back to our servers in search of updated software," Spevack wrote in an e-mail list posting.

"If you simply divide it out, that averages to about 12,500 per day, or 8.7 every minute," Spevack noted. "And basically, those are *new installs* of FC6."