On Wednesday, May 21, Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat Inc. released Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.2, an incremental upgrade of its flagship operating system, with upgrades in six areas, particularly in the arenas of virtualization and clustering.
The new version also includes security and network improvements, power-saving features and updated hardware device drivers for newer equipment.
RHEL product manager Daniel Riek said RHEL 5.2 will enable virtualization on larger systems with up to 64 CPUs, and will enable data centers to consolidate workloads more easily. Network improvements have boosted the maximum number of virtual guest machines from three to 15 and made it easier for customers with larger networks and/or clusters to use virtualization, he said.
In addition, RHEL 5.2 incorporates power management into virtualization, making it easier to reduce the CPU frequency and, in turn, power consumption, when a server is not fully utilized, Riek added. These power-saving features have been incorporated for physical servers for a long time but it is more complicated to achieve with virtual servers, he said.
RHEL 5.2 also includes better support for clustering, with unlimited support for guests within 64 CPUs and simplified migration, he said. Users can even run RHEL 3 or 4 as a guest on RHEL 5.2 and use the latest hardware without migrating their applications or changing their hardware, he said.
In related news, Red Hat released new paravirtualized drivers for virtual guests, enabling the latter to link directly to the hypervisor, Riek said. Eliminating the need for an emulator between the kernel and the hypervisor will significantly improve performance, he said.
Richard Jones, vice president and service director for data center strategies at Midvale, Utah-based analyst firm Burton Group, said Red Hat's release of paravirtualized drivers for fully virtualized guests will enable guest systems to perform at close-to-native speed, which will enable Red Hat to catch up to other virtualization vendors.
RHEL 5.2 is not particularly significant but does feature incremental improvements and fills in some noteworthy gaps, Jones said. In addition to virtualization upgrades, RHEL 5.2 incorporated the Global File System 2 (GFS2) , a cluster file system that the rest of the Linux community supports, demonstrating that GFS2 is commercially supportable, he said.
Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at Boulder, Colo.-based research firm RedMonk, said RHEL 5.2 is a "solid bump-up in performance" with more robust virtualization and improved clustering making it an "even more capable player" for server farms and data centers. The upgrade improves failover capabilities for transferring data from a nonfunctioning server to a working server and improves application support, he said.
Although RHEL 5.2 virtualization is still not as advanced as VMware Inc.'s offerings or the impending release of Microsoft's virtualization product, Hyper-V, RHEL 5.2 is acquiring additional capabilities at a steady rate, O'Grady said.Novell issues Service Pack for SUSE
Meanwhile, Waltham, Mass.-based Novell Inc. just released its Service Pack 2 for SUSE Linux Enterprise 10, with improvements in interoperability, virtualization, management and hardware. Based on the Citrix Systems Inc.'s Xen virtualization engine, SUSE Linux is fully compatible with Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization, Novell said.
Jones said neither announcement was monumental. Novell is delivering on its promises, adding interoperability and improving support for its management tool update system, he said.
"Both vendors are making progress, fixing problems and adding features to keep up with the market," he said. "There's no wow factor here."