Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.5 Beta Expands Virtualization

by Sean Michael Kerner

The new enterprise platform shows off enhanced virtualization, wireless and chip support.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.5 (RHEL) is now available in early beta, providing users of Red Hat's flagship operating system with bug fixes and an early look at some new features, too.

With RHEL 5.5, Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) is continuing to build on the RHEL 5 base, which was launched in 2007. Its most recent update was the RHEL 5.4 release, which officially debuted in September and was notable for its new KVM virtualization base. It's a base that Red Hat is further expanding now with RHEL 5.5, thanks to a new run-time memory allocation feature for KVM virtual guests.

With run-time memory allocation, virtual guests can also obtain extra memory as required as opposed to be stuck with a fixed amount of memory.

"In a virtualized environment, portions of the host's physical memory are allocated to each guest, with each guest starting a virtual session with a fixed RAM allocation," the RHEL 5.5 release notes state. "Run-time memory allocation -- referred to as memory ballooning during development -- allows for changing this allocation at run time."

Another virtualization improvement in RHEL 5.5 has to do with PCI passthrough. This enables a virtual operating system to see and utilize a computer's PCI devices as though they were physically attached. With RHEL 5.5, Red Hat has improved support for PCI passthrough on both AMD and Intel chipsets.

Red Hat is expanding RHEL's supported chipsets in other ways with this release. The new IBM Power7 CPU, which was just announced this week, will now be supported by RHEL 5.5.

In the new RHEL 5.5 beta, Red Hat is also taking aim at improving wireless for users with what the release notes described as "major updates to wireless drivers and subsystems in the kernel."

From a stability and performance perspective, there are several improvement being introduced with the RHEL 5.5 beta. One of them is the ability to detect kernel tasks that are stuck in an uninterruptible sleep state.

"In some circumstances, tasks in the kernel may permanently enter the uninterruptible sleep state (D-State), making the system impossible to shut down," the RHEL 5.5 release notes state. "With this update, the Detect Hung Task kernel thread has been added, providing the ability to detect tasks permanently stuck in the D-State."

Testing of the RHEL 5.5 beta is currently scheduled to last until March 16, with general availability thereafter.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Feb 10th 2010
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