Red Hat on Tuesday laid out its strategy to make it easier for customers to run and manage workloads in a virtualised Linux environment.
At an event in San Francisco, Red hat executives said they are working to provide a single, integrated Linux platform supporting virtualisation. Also at the event, Red Hat announced an online resource center to help customers prepare for virtualised environments.
A preview of Red Hat's upcoming virtualisation technologies, which includes the integration of the open-source Xen virtualisation software, will be available this month in Red Hat's community-driven Fedora project, when the Fedora 5 core is released.
In the summer, Red Hat expects to make those integrated virtualisation technologies available in a beta release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and at the same time deliver a set of migration, assessment and planning services for virtualised environments.
The general release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, which will include fully integrated virtualisation capabilities, is expected by year-end.
"We're treating virtualisation consistent with how we've released Linux technology over the last five years," says Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens, referring to the integration of key features such as security into Red Hat's standard enterprise Linux distribution. "So customers can consume and deploy a single, unified environment."
"The next step of that is with virtualization," he says. "Rather than put out a path and create a specific virtualisation stack, we're taking the virtualisation capability and technology and integrating it into what you know as the enterprise Linux platform today."
Virtualisation is gaining wider adoption in enterprise data centers as IT managers look for ways to get more out of hardware resources, analysts say. The idea of separating software and services from underlying hardware has long been used on mainframes and high-end Unix systems, but companies such as market leader VMware, are making virtualisation possible on x86 systems.
Red Hat has said that virtualisation is a key focus moving forward. Novell also is focusing on virtualisation and has said that it, too, plans native support for Xen virtualisation technology in the next release of SuSE Linux Enterprise Server, slated for May.
Analysts say the integration of Xen's virtualisation technology into the major Linux distributions should help drive more widespread adoption of virtualisation, especially with IT managers still pressured to do more with less.
Industry experts say the average x86 system runs at about 15 percent to 20 percent utilisation. "And when you look at the number of servers being deployed ... you see the huge cost that has gone into hardware alone," says Tim Yeaton, executive vice president of enterprise solutions at Red Hat. "Then there's the cost in terms of physical space, power consumption, heating and cooling and the administrative costs associated with managing large networks of individual systems."
Linux changed the economics of corporate IT by providing a more cost effective operating system, "and we think virtualisation is the next step to take that yet another notch by greatly improving cost and efficiencies and improving reliability," Yeaton says.