The release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 at a media event in San Francisco on March 14 reflects not only years of engineering work by Red Hat itself, but also its collaboration efforts with strategic partners such as IBM.
This collaboration resulted in the integration of Real-Time Linux capabilities, improved virtualization features and security enhancements into the latest version of the companys operating system, said Dan Frye, vice president for open systems development at IBM.
Paul Cormier, executive vice president of engineering at Red Hat, also acknowledged the contributions of others to the product.
“RHEL 5 is much more that just an upgrade to Linux—it is the culmination of a complete enterprise architecture that includes a broad ecosystem of certified, reliable solutions from partners like IBM,” he said.
RHEL 5 includes the Xen virtualization technology found in the Linux kernel, which helps businesses lower management costs by increasing server utilization.
IBM, which have been working with Red Hat and the Xen development community over the past two years to develop and harden the Xen hypervisor, plans to support the Xen technology in RHEL 5 through the companys virtualization portfolio running on its Intel and Opteron processor-based server and IBM BladeCenter systems, Frye said.
But Justin Steinman, director of product marketing for Linux and open source at Red Hat competitor Novell, is quick to point out that SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 was first to market with Xen virtualization, which provides enterprises with a lower-cost alternative to market leader VMware.
“With RHEL 5, Red Hat is following Novells lead by including Xen into their distribution. Novell is already in Phase Two with our Xen virtualization offering, including exclusive interoperability with Microsoft Windows and new tools to manage both physical and virtual servers in the data center,” he said.
IBM is currently testing and certifying RHEL 5 across all of its standards-based systems hardware and middleware and also plans to provide services and support for RHEL 5.
In addition, Big Blue and Red Hat developers collaborated with the open-source community to build Security-Enhanced Linux into Red Hats core operating system to provide Multilevel Security capabilities.
These capabilities enable enterprise customers, particularly those in the government sector, to create a mandatory access control policy that allows information to be classified as top secret, secret, confidential and unclassified.
“This security underpinning of the Linux kernel compartmentalizes applications and services into distinct security domains, providing a highly secure platform for applications or data for all types of customers. After testing and certification, these features will be available in RHEL 5, and supported by IBM software and systems,” Frye said.
IBM hardware and software products running on RHEL 5 are also being evaluated at the Common Criteria EAL (Evaluated Assurance Level) 4+, LSPP (Labeled Security Protection Profile), RBAC (Role Based Access Control Protection Profile) and CAPP (Controlled Access Protection Profile).
Red Hat plans to include in RHEL 5.1 as a technology preview new encrypted file system capabilities developed by IBM and adopted in the kernel to protect user identity by encrypting data at the file level in systems and on laptops.
IBM and Red Hat are also collaborating to deliver a new Real-Time Linux application development and deployment platform offering customers the ability to run systems that can perform at increased processing rates with high levels of reliability.
The new platform includes IBM WebSphere Real Time, a real-time J2SE (Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition) Java Virtual Machine, with a real-time version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 running on IBM System x and BladeCenter AMD- and Intel-based servers.
“This new computing infrastructure also provides a broad community of Java programmers with the ability to develop applications that can execute and provide predictable to millisecond granularity execution times,” Frye said.
The U.S. Navy is an early adopter of IBMs Real-Time Java technology running on a customized “Real-Time Linux” deployed by IBM, Raytheon and Red Hat and is taking advantage of a single and open standards-based computing environment for applications ranging from command-and-control, navigation, targeting, weapons control and radar systems.
“This first-of-its kind deployment will aid the Navys efforts to cut the cost of developing and maintaining traditionally expensive real-time applications so it can speed development of mission-critical combatant systems,” Frye said.
IBM is currently offering WebSphere Real-Time 1.0 running on a customized RHEL 4 environment to other interested early adopters in the government, financial and telecommunications sectors.
IBM will continue to work with Red Hat and members of the open-source community worldwide on improving kernel performance through a SystemTap toolkit, which offers performance tuning and system debugging features. The companies are also working on Samba, kernel scalability, customer testing and numerous ongoing technology projects, Frye said.
But Novells Steinmann points out that most IT managers want a complete operating system platform, with solutions from the desktop to the data center, so they can leverage management tools and people skills.
“Red Hat is basically ignoring the desktop, while SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop continues to sign new customers, like our 20,000 desktop deployment at Peugeot Citroen,” he said.
Novell also firmly believes there are going to be just two dominant operating systems in the data center by 2010: Linux and Windows, and that its offering is the best bet on the Linux front.
“The recent partnership between Novell and Microsoft is focused on interoperability between Linux and Windows. Were offering the market a choice: the Linux operating system that works well with Windows—SUSE—or the one that does not—Red Hat,” he said.