Red Hat to Illuminate Virtualization Initiatives

The Linux vendor is expected to discuss building Xen virtualization capabilities into Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 at a company event, and it may announce a Xen technology submission for inclusion in the Linux kernel.

Linux vendor Red Hat will give an update on its virtualization initiatives March 14 at an event in San Francisco hosted by Tim Yeaton, Red Hats executive vice president of enterprise solutions, and Brian Stevens, chief technology officer at the Raleigh, N.C., company.

Also attending the event will be representatives from strategic hardware partners Intel and AMD, sources have told eWEEK.

While the company declined to comment ahead of the event, Red Hat has been aggressively working on getting the Xen virtualization technology ready to be submitted for merging into the Linux kernel.

Xen lets multiple copies of Linux run on the same computer through its virtualization technology, and is a "hypervisor"—software that manages a computers hardware resources so they can be shared by multiple operating systems.

A range of hardware and software improvements underway means that Xen also will be able to work with the Microsoft Windows and Sun Microsystems Solaris operating systems and run on computers using IBM Power, Intel Itanium and Sun Sparc, as well as those that are x86-based.

Red Hat officials have said that they will incorporate the Xen projects Xen 3.0 server virtualization capabilities into the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 product, which is expected to ship in the second half of this year, while major OEMs such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM have said they will also support the technology.

The open-source Xen project, based at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory in England, in December released Xen 3.0, which offered new features aimed at large SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) environments.

Around the same time XenSource, a company created in early 2005 by the initial developers of Xen, released its first commercial product, dubbed XenOptimizer, designed to help users manage their Xen virtualized environments.

XenSource officials argue that while the Xen hypervisor technology is free, companies like theirs will be able to make money by offering management and related software on top of Xen.

But they are likely to face competition from companies like Red Hat, which is also expected to develop tools for load balancing and workload automation tools to take advantage of the Xen virtualization capabilities. Such a move could also see Red Hat compete in this space with partner IBM, analysts have said.

Last October, CTO Stevens told eWEEK that Red Hat would like to have the Xen virtualization technology submitted for inclusion in the Linux kernel "in the next two months. I dont think its a long-term project at all. My goal is to get this done in the most collaborative way possible with anyone in the community who wants to participate," Stevens said, adding that Red Hat had hired an additional six staff members in the virtualization area so as to step up the work on the project and help get it done.

But Andrew Morton, the current maintainer of the Linux 2.6 kernel, who works for the Open Source Development Labs, in Beaverton, Ore., told eWEEK that the technology has not yet been submitted. "I dont know what people have been doing lately—nothing has come my way," he told eWEEK on March 13.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more on why Red Hat wants Xen in the Linux kernel.

A big part of Red Hats strategy is making virtualization and its management part of a Linux system, "so this is not just maturing the technology, but having the operating system itself, the kernel itself, be intimately aware that it is being virtualized so that it participates," Stevens said.

The goal was to make virtualization as ubiquitous as possible, thereby allowing customers to decide whether they needed it or not. "Our strategy is around how to make it ubiquitous, what are all the issues that make it ubiquitous and part of the platform," he said.

Linux kernel maintainer Morton told eWEEK that Red Hat "is a strong engineering company, and I trust them to produce a good contribution and to support it," adding that once a contribution emerged from a development team, he would actively identify other stakeholders and solicit their feedback.

"There are quite a few stakeholders here, including XenSource, Red Hat, IBM and Intel," he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifRead more here about why Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols feels Xen is no killer app.

Others, like John Loiacono, executive vice president for software at Sun Microsystems, have welcomed the moves to promote Xen. Sun is itself embracing the Xen virtualization technology across its products and platforms, he said, adding that it has some of its brightest engineers working on this and is collaborating with others in the open-source community.

Sam Greenblatt, a senior vice president at Computer Associates International, also told eWEEK that he was pleased with the progress being made with Xen and that CA would support anything going into the kernel that supports virtualization. "Its come a long way. We just want to be careful to make sure it goes in the right way," he said.

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