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RHEL 5 Launches

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Red Hat earlier today announced the latest version of RHEL 5 in a series of live events worlwide in Germany and the US.  Since we work closely with Red Hat, I joined along with other open source partners and customers in San Francisco.  Red Hat execs Paul Cormier, Mike Evans, Brian Stevens and David Burney were on hand to provide an overview of what's new and what's coming in the future.

The newest flagship version is called RHEL 5 Advanced Platform, which includes quad-core CPU support, integrated virtualization (based on the Xen hypervisor) with an unlimited number of guest operating systems, and virtualized storage capabilities as well as easier system administration.

A high availability database clustering package will allow users to build data center systems with the customer's choice of databases including Oracle, Sybase, DB2 and MySQL.  Compared to Oracle RAC, Red Hat's approach could save customers hundreds of thousands of dollars. CTO Brian Stevens is driving the development of "the ultimate database container" which will no doubt make life easier for DBAs, SysAdmins and CIOs throughout the industry.  While some sources have speculated that Red Hat's moves in the area of virtualization are a response to Oracle's forking of Red Hat, I think shows that Red Hat is focused on solving customer problems and adding value.

Red Hat also indicated that they are stepping up their commitment in middleware by doubling their investment in JBoss.  While there were some early questions about how well the JBoss integration had been going given founder Marc Fleury's departure, I believe their strategy is paying off.  Red Hat is delivering a broader solution to customers and winning more and bigger deals as a result. 

Red Hat: Eliminating Complexity
As impressive as all this is, Red Hat is focused on making sure that every step in the process is easier for their customers.  So they took their 9 page support agreement contract (which was already 1/4 as long as competitors' contracts) and reduced it down to 1 page --with none of the usual legaleze!  As Red Hat exec Ian Gray succinctly put it: "If we ship the bits, we support the bits." 

Not only is Red Hat doing its customers a service by simplifying their contracts, they are no doubt streamlining their own internal operations. While this might seem like a small detail, consider how many hours of lost productivity there are when people spend time reviewing and negotiating contracts over a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo. With this attention to detail, it's clear that Red Hat is focused on what matters: the customer experience. 

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