Actually, there were several announcements in yesterday’s conference call and webcast: within the typical sales and marketing noise was talk of virtualization at almost every level of the discussion, hosted by a trio of Red Hat executives.
The first of the announcements, regarding the official release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.1, was made by Scott Crenshaw, Red Hat’s vice president of enterprise Linux business. In some prepared remarks, Crenshaw went after proprietary virtualization technologies, saying RHEL 5.1’s virtualization delivers broader server support and up to twice the performance that the competition.
The skinny on 5.1
There were no real surprises in this announcement, especially if you’re a regular reader of SearchEnterpriseLinux.com. Back in September we filed a preview article on 5.1 (RHEL 5.1 update tweaks virtualization, Windows interoperability), where we discussed the virtualizaiton updates with a few experts. Jan Stafford, our Senior Site Editor at SEL, had a 5.1 preview up as far back as May from the Red Hat Summit.
RHEL 5.0 was a success when it launched in March. The inclusion of Xen support was almost a full year behind Novell, which had baked in Xen paravirtualization back in June 2006, but it worked as advertised, albeit with a few tweaks here and there. “It’s not half-baked,” Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff told me at the time, “but it certainly doesn’t have the fit and finish we see with VMware.” Not many things do these days, as VMware loves to point out during their quarterly “ESX Server prints money!!!” press conferences. With 5.1 officially avaialble to Red Hat customers via the Red Hat Network, however, the consensus was that the gap got a little smaller.
Also back in September, Jim Klein, director of information services and technology at the Saugus Union School District in Saugus, Calif., told me that RHEL 5.1 is a “significant improvement over version 5 on the management side of things.”
In this regard, the Windows functionality in 5.1 is critical: IT managers are making decisions now about which platform to base their virtualized infrastructure on, Klein said. “If Red Hat can get their Windows drivers out soon, I think they will be well positioned to pick up significant market share in the coming year,” he said (Read Jim Klein’s Enterprise Linux Log guest blog post on Xen and Fedora 7 – J.L.).
Moving on, things got a bit cloudy during the press conference as Crenshaw and company (Paul Cormier, v.p engineering; and Brian Stevens, CTO) announced that beta availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), a web service that provides re-sizeable compute capacity in the cloud.
In a statement that accompanied the press call, Red Hat said the combination of RHEL and Amazon EC2 “changes the economics of computing by allowing customers to pay only for the infrastructure software services and capacity that they actually use. Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Amazon EC2 enables customers to increase or decrease capacity within minutes, removing the need to over-buy software and hardware capacity as a set of resources to handle periodic spikes in demand.”
As part of this partnership, Red Hat Network will offer a common set of management and automation tools across on-premises deployments and the Amazon EC2 cloud computing environment. Red Hat will provide technical support and maintenance of Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Amazon EC2. This is the first commercially supported operating system available on Amazon EC2.
As far as pricing and availability are concerned, RHEL on Amazon EC2 is available as a private beta today, with public beta availability planned for the fourth calendar quarter of 2007. Base prices are $19 per month, per user and $0.21, $0.53 or $0.94 for every compute hour used on Amazon’s EC2 service, depending on whether customers choose a small, large or extra-large compute instance size, plus bandwidth and storage fees.
The final piece of the pie was the pending release of Red Hat Appliance Operating System, or AOS for short. This ISV-themed OS means that in the very near future (first half of 2008, execs told me), ISVs will be assembling appliances for their customers that run on AOS and work with every certified RHEL application under the sun. Hint: That’s a lot, and was exactly the angle Red Hat executives took on the Wednesday call.
“The Red Hat Appliance Operating System will allow applications that are certified on Red Hat Enterprise Linux to be deployed as software appliances on the broadest range of servers in the industry, including those running Red Hat Enterprise Linux, VMware ESX and Microsoft Windows Viridian. Red Hat’s Linux Automation strategy, also announced today, delivers a standardized development, deployment and management infrastructure for the entire Red Hat Enterprise Linux ecosystem,” a statement said. Look for an industry reaction piece from us on SearchEnterpriseLinux.com later in the day.
The Red Hat Appliance Operating System (AOS) is built from Red Hat Enterprise Linux, with which it shares full ABI and API compatibility. It includes the Virtual Appliance Development Kit (vADK) that will allow ISVs to configure the operating system along with their middleware and applications to produce a complete system image.
Red Hat also announced that a range of software solutions on Red Hat Exchange are available for trial and purchase as pre-configured software appliances. Customers can now purchase and deploy an integrated solution consisting of third-party software, JBoss middleware and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The total time necessary to purchase, install and use these solutions is “just minutes,” Crenshaw said.
A lot of PR in this announcement, so we’ll have to see where it goes in 2008. Stay tuned.