Company Has Earned Respect Over 10 Years
Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat has been producing its front-line operating
system, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, since the late 1990s. RHEL and the JBoss
server middleware products-acquired in April 2006 for about $350 million-are
respected around the world for their quality of engineering and the
accompanying service Red Hat provides.
Whitehurst, who came to Red Hat in January 2008 after serving as Delta Air Lines' chief operating officer and guiding it through-and out-of bankruptcy, is getting his company and its developer community prepared for its annual Red Hat Summit, set for Sept. 1-4, 2009, in Chicago. It's by far the largest gathering of Red Hat-affiliated developers held each year.
The company will be making a major announcement about RHEL at the summit. Meanwhile, the RHEL 5.4 beta has been out for several weeks and is being tested by current Red Hat customers and independent open source developers.
"We produce a new full version about every two to three years, and then we add in 'dot' versions a few times per year," Whitehurst said.
This will be an important update. Details will be forthcoming, but it is known that the 5.4 beta described on DistroWatch includes new virtualization capabilities that will enable the operating system to become, in effect, its own hypervisor within a data center structure.
"We're strategically making a move from Xen to KVM [Linux's kernel-based virtual machine], and there are three big sources of value affiliated with KVM," Whitehurst said.
"First, there's the advantage of rapid hardware enablement; all the big hardware manufacturers-IBM, HP, AMD, Intel-do their own hardware enablement. We don't have to do it. When it [RHEL 5.4] ships in the fall, it will have a larger base of certified hardware on Day 1 than [VMware] ESX does today.
"Second, you get the overall benefits of a full operating system-so you can run some apps on bare metal and some virtualized on the same box. Third, by running a guest on Linux, you inherit literally thousands of man-years of code that have been written to do various things."
Whitehurst said there are numerous open source code sets that can be used; he offered two examples here.
"One is SELinux, with all that development by the military, Red Hat, tons of people around the world, the full security regime around that," Whitehurst said. "Guess what? All those policies can wrap around any running process in Linux. And guess what else? You can [also] wrap those virtual instances. All that security work that's been done-we don't have to rewrite it. We just use SELinux."
The other example, Whitehurst said, is the Condor Project at the University of Wisconsin, which is a long-running project involving scheduling across a grid.
"We're commercializing this as something called MRG-Messaging/Realtime/Grid," Whitehurst said. "All of that work that's been done on scheduling workloads-they're inherited. You now can take all these running guests as processes and say: 'You want to know how to optimize them, and spread them across a thousand servers?'
"Well, we're not going in and rewriting all of this; it already exists. Just use it."