The San Antonio, Texas-based Web hosting company, Rackspace Managed Hosting Ltd., is already home to more than 4,500 Linux configurations.
Whats different about the Red Label program is that it seeks to provide comprehensive management, monitoring and security services for hosting Linux environments that require 99.9999 percent mission-critical business application uptime.
In particular, the Red Label program is designed to support Web-based applications running on J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) or LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP/Perl/Python).
Rackspace seeks to give customers this with a combination of proactive patching, multi-layer monitoring, vendor support for every applications components, and monthly technology planning based on current system loads in consultation with a Rackspace lead engineer.
The supported applications include software from Oracle, MySQL, JBoss and Apache.
Overall operating system support is based on the use of such applications as Novell Inc.s ZENworks Linux Management software for server management and patching.
"Novell provides a management solution that manages multiple Linux distributions. Tapping Novell to manage our Linux servers gives us flexibility to deploy what we want, when we want, as well as lowering our costs of management," said Paul Froutan, Rackspaces VP of product development, in a statement.
In addition, Rackspace uses Nimsofts NimBUS product line to monitor its Red Label hosting network and servers.
Prior to Red Label, Rackspace had only used Red Hat Inc. Linux distributions.
Now, the company will be offering both Red Hat Linuxes and SLES (SuSE Linux Enterprise Server) for its customers. These are supported by Red Hat Certified and Novell Certified Engineers.
Historically, Rackspace has run about a 50-50 mix of Windows and Linux on its servers.
However, in an interview, Froutan said, "Weve seen significant growth in Linux. Since January 2004, our Linux revenue has doubled.
This new offering, he said, is comparable to Rackspaces existing high-end Windows offering, Intensive.
Linux and the BSD operating systems have long been favored by Web hosting companies due to their reliability and low cost.
Froutan said that, for the most part, people running enterprise applications, though, had been using Web servers like Microsofts IIS (Internet Information Server) on Windows.
"The market is changing. More and more enterprise customers are asking for Linux," said Froutan.
The market research house Gartner Inc. agrees.
"Enterprises are increasingly interested in the benefits of Linux, but given the diversity of vendors and relative newness of some of the technology, these enterprises may not have the resources in-house to manage a complex Linux deployment," said Ted Chamberlin, principal analyst for Garnets communications group, in a press statement.
This, in turn, makes the business case for Red Label.
"Managed hosting enables organizations to better focus their human capital on delivering business value by providing a fully-managed Linux environment for application development and deployment," said Chamberlin.
"To the best of my knowledge," said Chamberlin in an interview, "Rackspace is the first Web hosting company to offer this level of support and service for Linux."
"People think Linux is hot. They like the low tolls, the features, the cost-savings, but the service providers dont have a great story around it. Lots of server companies offer Web hosting with Linux, but they dont layer good support and services around it," Chamberlin said.
Rackspace, on the other hand, "offers a compelling story. With high-end capabilities, six-figure reliability on their servers and the Linux lot, this [Red Label] is squarely aimed for financial servers, media and entertainment, companies that want to push the envelope of development."
The hosting company, despite being a market leader according to Gartners last Web hosting survey, still suffers from a lack of name recognition.
"People still think of EDS, IBM, and AT&T," said Chamberlin. "But, this offer could help them penetrate into the Fortune 1000."
With 56 percent year over year growth, some of the most reliable Web hosting services around, according to Netcraft Ltd., and this new service offering, Chamberlin doesnt expect Rackspace to "suffer some nonetheless from the unknown name syndrome" for much longer.