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Red Hat and the Xen of Virtualization

Coming as no surprise to those who follow Linux distribution leader Red Hat, virtualization is going to be an important new component in the upcoming Fedora Core 5 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL) release.

What might be a surprise, though, is the degree to which Red Hat is going to be integrating virtualization into its Linux platform.

The upcoming Fedora Core 5 (FC 5) community release and the end-of-year RHEL 5 are expected to integrate virtualization in a more seamless and enterprise users friendly way than ever before.

Brian Stevens, Red Hat CTO, explained in a conference call that FC 4 was the "anti-integrated thing." Stevens added that with FC 4, Red Hat built a para-virtualized kernel and a FAQ on how a user could actually install it.

"It was a pretty arduous process to actually get to a running virtualized environment," Stevens said. "We didn't worry about any of the other tools; as well we didn't worry about an applet for monitoring what was going on in the system, for doing VM control and all the finish and polish that you'd expect. It was more of a developer focus than a user focus."

In FC 5, the process is expected to be considerably easier for users to deploy and, to some degree, manage virtualization.

Stevens explained that with FC 5, it's going to take the rocket science away from somebody that's going to be the end user of virtualization and provide an "out of the box" virtualization experience.

The expectation is that users will try out Xen virtualization and figure out how to deploy it and how to improve it, the results of which will find their way in the more stable and enterprise ready RHEL 5 end of year release.

Red Hat plans on providing Virtualization Migration and Assessment Services for RHEL 5 customers in addition to including Xen as part of the release.

Red Hat's use of Xen isn't only a good thing for Red Hat; it's also being hailed as a good thing for Xen itself.

"The community and XenSource can do an awful lot of testing around Xen itself, but the hypervisor is only one piece of an integrated virtualization stack," Frank Artale, XenSource vice president of business development, said on the call.

"In general only an operating system vendor can test the entire stack from top to bottom -- can certify that all parts and pieces work.

"For us having the Xen open source hypervisor be part of the RHEL 5 release train is critical to the continued building up of quality of the Xen open source hypervisor."

Last November, Red Hat rolled out its 2006 roadmap, which addressed the inclusion of the Xen open source virtualization hypervisor in its upcoming RHEL 5 flagship Linux release.

Backed by XenSource, Xen has IBM's support. And Xen 3.0, which was released in December, supports hardware virtualization technology, including Intel's VT-x virtualization technology and AMD Pacifica.

Xen is no stranger to Linux distribution. It found its way into Novell SUSE Linux version 9.3 and Red Hat Fedora Core 4, which were released in 2005.

Xen is also expected to find its way into Sun Solaris.