Linux specialist Red Hat on Tuesday provided details of plans to integrate virtualization capabilities in its operating-system software, particularly the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform, in an effort to help customers get more performance out of their servers.
Set for debut later this year, the next major release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, version 5, will feature server virtualization capabilities that are based on the open-source Xen virtualization engine.
Virtualization is attractive to corporate customers in that it allows them to run multiple operating systems simultaneously on a single hardware platform, which, in theory, can help reduce operational costs.
Red Hat estimates that servers typically operate at between 15 and 25 percent of total CPU capacity. But with virtualization technology, that could rise to 80 percent.
The Xen virtualization technology is similar to VMware's software and Microsoft's Virtual Server, both of which can create an environment in which software systems operate at a more abstracted level from the hardware layer.
Red Hat's virtualization strategy includes a platform for server consolidation, a development environment designed to reduce the complexity associated with writing and testing code on target systems, and support for hardware abstraction.
This month, Red Hat will release Fedora Core 5, a Linux distribution that will contain a preview of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux virtualization technology. And in a few months, the company will begin offering virtualization migration-and-assessment services along with a formal beta of its virtualization software.
By the end of this year, the integration of Xen into Red Hat Enterprise Linux will result in improved workload management and better servera availability, the company contends, with virtualization moving deeper into the Linux mainstream.
Novell is helping those efforts as well by adding the Xen engine to its SuSE Linux 10 distribution and future iterations of the company's enterprise-grade Linux products.
Wave of the Future
"It's clear that organizations are looking at ways to cut costs and make sure their investments offer immediate value," said IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky. "Virtualization helps them achieve those goals by aggregating the workloads handled by older machines on a bigger machine."
Red Hat also noted that it is partnering with AMD and Intel on developing virtualization-enabled chipsets for Red Hat Enterprise Linux customers. Intel currently offers variants of virtualization technology for its Xeon and Pentium processors.
The move to virtualization is part of a major overhaul in enterprise I.T., which began with Web services, said Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillet. "The next significant step is server virtualization for x86 systems and Xen open-source technology for vendors like Red Hat and Novell," he said.
Gillet suggested that it is only a matter of time before virtualization capabilities are commoditized, as vendors like Intel and AMD provide additional hardware-level support. "So the battleground is shifting to management of virtual environments and organizing systems to use the hardware more efficiently," he explained.
A key concern at this point, said Gillet, is the ability to handle multiple copies of applications in virtual environments and to couple virtualization with data-center automation. "Enterprises have to start thinking about how they will implement virtualization," he said.