Red Hat's latest iterations of its Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL5) operating system were unveiled yesterday. The new releases offer long-awaited built-in virtualisation capabilities, from the open-source Xen project.

Red Hat isn't the first Linux OS (operating system) to include built-in virtualization, however. Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10.0 was released with Xen 3.0 integration in the summer of 2006.

Wednesday's debut is welcome news for Red Hat customers, according to IBM vice president Daniel Frye. IBM worked with Red Hat on the integration. Until now, Red Hat customers who wanted virtualisation had to incorporate it on their own, Frye said. "A much larger group wanted it in the distribution where they can just deploy it," he said.

Red Hat's Paul Cormier revealed that RHEL5 is available in several iterations. A base version is available for small deployments, while the new RHEL5 Advanced Platform edition is designed for larger customers and includes the integrated server and storage virtualisation technologies.

The base version will allow users to create up to four virtualized "guest" servers on one box and is aimed at smaller companies. It doesn't include integrated storage virtualisation, said Nick Carr, marketing director for the company.

RHEL5 Advanced Platform, which is aimed at larger businesses, includes much broader virtualisation capabilities, including an unlimited number of virtual guests limited only by the hardware it's running on, Carr said. The Advanced Platform version also includes storage virtualisation capabilities, helping companies to cut storage costs, he said.

"There's an interesting market for both," Carr said.

Also announced yesterday was the company's RHEL5 desktop Linux operating system.

Cormier said that prices for the operating systems would be unchanged.

The new operating systems also offer new systems-management features to make it easier to juggle the complexities of virtualised environments, as well as simplified standard service-level agreements and a joint customer support center with partners to make it easier for customers to get support, according to Red Hat.

A new Red Hat Cooperative Resolution Center is being created to make it easier for customers to get help with problems, regardless of which vendor's products are causing difficulties.