November 1, 2005 4:00 AM PST
Red Hat looks under Linux's hood
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software to newly created virtual machines as well as schedule jobs and balance work running across a group of servers, Stevens said.
Xen remains a relatively immature product today, however, and not one to be used by those faint of heart. By August, developers had hoped to release Xen 3.0, which is expected to include important support for multiprocessor servers. However, that version now is scheduled for release in December, according to the project Web site.
Another major push will be the stateless Linux effort to make the operating system useful for customers with large numbers of desktop computers, Stevens said. This software effort "got stalled out" for a time, but "with the new team, we're picking it back up," he said.
Stateless Linux stores the particulars of a computer user's desktop operating system on a central server and lets the person tap into it through a variety of methods, Stevens said. For example, users could have Linux installed on a PC that synchronizes personal files kept there with the same files kept on a server, so they can work offline or get faster access. Or a generic PC could temporarily be turned into a user's personalized machine by booting it using a Linux CD or a version of the operating system sent over a network.
The key to stateless Linux is creating a version of the operating system that can automatically adapt to a PC's particular hardware configuration, Stevens said.
Stateless Linux is the top priority customers are seeking from Red Hat after virtualization, Stevens said. The reason is to reduce management costs for companies with hundreds or thousands of machines, he said.
"What we're trying to do is (develop) a compelling way to drive down the cost to manage client environments," Stevens said.
New developer tools are on the way for Linux, too. Sun Microsystems has attracted a lot of customer attention with its DTrace tool, which finds bottlenecks by letting administrators analyze software as it runs, Stevens said. SystemTap is a newer alternative to DTrace designed to work with Linux; DTrace with Sun's own OS, Solaris.
"There was a lot of 'We like DTrace, and we want you to do that,'" Stevens said. "Now I don't hear that anymore."
There's still work to do, but Red Hat is headed in the right direction, analyst Iams said. "If you do a head-to-head comparison with DTrace, you'll see SystemTap is not anywhere near as powerful," he said. But the work so far is "an indication that Red Hat has not lost touch with the requirement of enterprise and data center users, where Linux is making a lot if its headway. A lot of the success is at the expense of Unix systems."
Red Hat also is backing development of Frysk, an advanced debugging program, the company said.
Stevens is the right person to oversee the Linux and open-source improvements, Iams said. He worked on the highly regarded clustering abilities of Tru64 Unix, developed initially at Digital Equipment Corp., before moving to a start-up called Mission-Critical Linux and then to Red Hat.
"He was one of the chief architects of TruClusters. He's got a very strong track record," Iams said. "He's one of the smartest guys I've met in my career. He understands the issues cold."
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