Red Hat is readying the first major update to its free Fedora Core Linux distribution since November 2004. Expected June 13, a week behind schedule, Fedora Core 4 will be the first release of the Raleigh, North Carolina, company's Linux operating system to include support for the Xen virtualization software. It will also mark the first time the company has included new community-contributed features, called Extras, in a new release of the operating system.
The software will be delayed by a week as because of a snafu securing legal permission for the software's code-name, which has yet to be determined, according to Jeremy Katz, a Red Hat engineer who discussed the project at the Red Hat Summit Thursday.
Fedora Core 4 will include a number of performance enhancements, integration with Red Hat's Red Hat Global File System, and updated versions of the compiler and desktop software used in Red Hat's Linux.
But perhaps the most high-profile new feature of Fedora Core 4 will be the Xen virtualization software, which allows users to run more than one copy of an operating system on the same computer. When used in combination with Intel's Vanderpool Technology, expected to soon begin appearing in chipsets, Xen allows users to run copies of both Windows and Linux simultaneously on the same computer.
Xen is still in the early stages of development, but over the next year Red Hat plans to develop tools that will make it easier for administrators to configure and manage "virtual" copies of the operating system using Xen, said Rik van Riel, a Red Hat engineer.
Red Hat originally released Fedora as an unsupported alternative to its Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) product. Fedora includes many cutting-edge features, such as Xen, that are intended for inclusion in upcoming versions of RHEL. Unlike Red Hat's commercial products, however, users are free to make as many copies of Fedora as they wish, without paying for support licenses.
Red Hat was initially criticized for dictating what features would and would not be in the Fedora release. This year, however, it launched the Extras project as a way to let contributors outside of Red Hat decide what features to add to the release, said Michael Tiemann Red Hat's chief technology officer. "We are basically saying, 'OK, we heard you and here's our response,'" he said.
Jeffery Tillotson, a system administrator with health care equipment maker Elekta, said he will rush to download the new release, but will wait a few months before deploying it, in order to get more comfortable with the software.
Elekta uses an earlier version of Fedora Core on about 25 of the company's Intel-based servers to handle filesharing and software development within the company, he said.
Though the Xen technology may be interesting, Tillotson said he has no plans to take advantage of it at present. "We spend so little on each box, it would cost us more to put (our applications) all on one big box," he said.