Linux distributor Red Hat has launched version 5 of its Enterprise Linux offering, including a new Advanced Platform version that enables users to run an unlimited number of virtual operating system images.
The Raleigh, North Carolina-based company has repackaged both the desktop and server versions of its operating system, as well as delivering improved customer support and application stack capabilities.
"We are not just launching a new operating system, we are changing the way we package and sell it," commented Tim Yeaton, senior vice president of marketing. "Virtualisation is built into the platform. Our objective is not to require customers to count [their virtual instances]."
The company had considered delivering a new package alongside the former ES, AS and WS versions that would enable unlimited use of the operating system on XenSource's hypervisor technology, which has been rolled in to version 5.
Instead it has decided to offer unlimited use on its top of the range package, much as Novell's decided to do with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, which was released last July. The company has also decided to get rid of the ES, AS and WS versions.
What was the ES (Enterprise Server) version is now simply known as Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, which offers the core functionality and support for four virtual instances. Suitable for servers with up to two sockets, RHEL 5 costs $349 for a Basic subscription with web support, $799 for a Standard subscription with business hours support, and $1299 for a Premium subscription with 24x7 support.
The Advanced Platform edition replaces Advanced Server and also rolls in additional functionality previously available as separate products, such as the cluster volume management and global file system functionality.
While it costs the same as Advanced Server, it is the ability to run an unlimited number of guest operating systems that makes the Advanced Platform cost effective. 24x7 Premium support costs $2499 per server per year, while Standard support costs $1499 per year and offers business hours support.
RHEL 5 also sees the end of the WS edition, targeted at workstation users. Instead there is a single Red Hat Enterprise Desktop costing $80 for a single-year Basic support agreement, as well as additional workstation and multi-OS options.
Priced at $99 per year, the Workstation Option includes support for two processor sockets, unlimited memory, a developer environment, Standard support terms and workstation deployment for server applications. Meanwhile the Multi-OS option exploits Xen to enable users to run Windows applications via up to four virtualised guests and costs $40 per year.
The company has also extended Red Hat Network, its update and support offering, and Yeaton maintains that with Xen support built into the product "you should be able to manage five times as many RHEL servers in this environment as you would, say, Windows servers."
Yeaton also took a swipe at the traditional software licensing model, noting that while RHEL 5 is now available, the company's subscription model meant that existing customers would be under no pressure to upgrade.
"Each year our customers have an opportunity to make a different choice," he said. "On a subscription basis, customers can adopt RHEL 5 at whatever pace makes sense for them. The subscription model helps us deliver value that makes sense to the customer, rather than selling software for the sake of it."
The company's business model has come under pressure in recent months thanks to Novell's interoperability deal with Microsoft and Oracle's Unbreakable Linux support offering, but Yeaton offered both short shrift.
"There has been a lot of talk recently about interoperability," he said, noting that Red Hat "hired pretty much all of the Samba team that was at Novell" before the members of the open source file and print interoperability project resigned en masse in protest at the deal.
As for Oracle's plan to undercut Red Hat on Linux support, Red Hat put that into perspective with a new Database Availability offering that it claimed could save users up to $210 000 in Oracle Real Application
"With the way we have built virtualisation into the operating system you can get high availability with traditional database instances, you do not have to buy specialist clustered database configurations to get the high availability benefits," said Yeaton.
The offering includes two RHEL AP subscriptions, is available for Oracle, Sybase, DB2, MySQL and EnterpriseDB databases, and is one of three new packaged solutions offered by Red Hat. The others are targeted at data centre and high performance computing environments.
As well as RHEL 5 and its related solutions, Red Hat also announced a number of partner and customer-support related initiatives, including the launch of a Cooperative Resolution Center through which it will work with third party hardware and software vendors on problem solving.
"Our objective is to be able to respond to any customer problem regardless of whose technology the problem belongs to," said Yeaton, adding that the centre would be designed to prevent ISVs and IHVs blaming each other for customer problems. "Here we are going to take the responsibility to take that to the next step and solve that problem."
The company has also drastically reduced the size of its service level agreement in order to make things easier to understand, Yeaton said that the RHEL 4 SLA was nine pages long, compared to 36 for "another leading Linux distribution" and that with RHEL 5 Red Hat had got it down to a single page.
Laughing off suggestions that the company had just made the font smaller, Yeaton said that the new SLA included a simple list of what Red Hat will support; installation, usage, configuration, diagnosis, and bug fixes, as well as a list of what it what it will not support; such as experimental code and externally developed code.
Looking ahead to the second quarter, Yeaton also announced that the company will launch Red Hat Exchange, a selection of pre-built integrated open source software stacks for which it will offer a single point of support.
Partners lined up to participate in RHX include Alfresco, Compiere, Centric, EnterpriseDB, GroundWork, JasperSoft, Pentaho, SugarCRM, Zimbra, and Zmanda, while the offering will eventually be available to proprietary software vendors as well.
While RHX will see Red Hat delivering integrated stacks, rather than pre-built software or hardware appliances, Yeaton also noted that it is "something we will be looking at this year."