Red Hat sees virtualization as route for 2006

Red Hat Inc. said Tuesday that the next version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, due for release in late 2006, will include a server virtualization capability integrated into the OS.

The development of virtualization technologies was detailed by Brian Stevens, Red Hat's newly-appointed chief technology officer, and Timothy Yeaton, senior vice president for marketing, who spoke in London about the company's vision for the next one to two years. Stevens was formerly Red Hat's vice president of operating system, storage and clustering development.

Red Hat will continue to work on virtualization with the Xen community, the open-source project based at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory in England.

The focus of Red Hat's development efforts will be to reduce IT infrastructure costs by developing an OS that encompasses security and storage management along with a management platform, Yeaton said.

Though Red Hat offered few specifics on its virtualization plans, the company is expected to include version 3 of Xen in its upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 product, which is expected sometime in 2006, according to Tony Iams, a senior analyst with the research firm Ideas International Inc.

But the more interesting part of Red Hat's virtualization roadmap will be based on the load balancing and workload automation tools that it eventually develops to take advantage of the Xen virtualization capabilities, Iams said. That software, which is probably still several years out, will put Red Hat in competition with proprietary companies such as Microsoft Corp. and EMC's VMware Inc. subsidiary, but it may also put Red Hat in competition with its Linux partner, IBM Corp.

Red Hat is fixated on management opportunities and wants to have open-source versions of higher level management software, according to Iams. "That's quite ambitious because now you're going after the bread and butter of the VMwares and even the IBMs out there," he said.

As companies increase the number of servers they use, their costs are also rising, whether they are running Windows, Unix or Linux, according to Stevens. "Nothing is scaling today in terms of number of systems administrators to number of boxes," he said.

Red Hat will also continue to pursue "stateless Linux," whereby data that makes up an individual machine is moved to the network, allowing users to use any local machine and call up their information.

Red Hat will also work to improve the quality and speed of software development projects through the leveraging of open-source tools and processes, officials said. The company will do this by continued investment in open-source tools such as Eclipse, SystemTAP and Frysk, along with training for commercial application developers.

While Linux continues to make gains in established markets, its growth is expected to double in emerging markets such as Brazil, India, Russia, Eastern Europe and China, Yeaton said. Accordingly, Red Hat has established a joint venture in India and expanded its presence in China.

Over the last three quarters, Red Hat has signed up 37,000 new customers, many of whom are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Yeaton said. About 60 percent have fewer than 100 employees, and 20 percent have 1,000 or less. Those customers need unique products rather than configuration guidelines and packaging, Yeaton said.

"We think the SME marketplace in North America and around the world is another big growth opportunity," Yeaton said.

Robert McMillan, in San Francisco, contributed to this story.

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