If you become the subject of controversy, then you get all the glory too. In hindsight, perhaps the folks at XenSource should be happy about the little soap opera that recently bubbled up around a certain Red Hat senior executive's opinion that XenSource's open source virtualization solution isn't ready for prime time. Now, with the big news that Red Hat has finally released the first beta version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux comes the headlines that nicely dovetail that soap opera. The headline on Stephan Shankland's report -- Red Hat releases Xen-enabled Linux beta -- says it all. I mean, after all, there's a lot more to RHEL5 than support for Xen (not that support for Xen is a bad thing --- I'm a huge fan of virtualization and I think it's a great thing). Wrote News.com's Shankland:
Red Hat on Friday released its first test version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, its first product to incorporate the Xen virtualization technology....Red Hat, the leading Linux seller, has been more cautious than rival Novell, which started shipping Xen in July. Xen, which lets a single server run multiple operating systems simultaneously to increase efficiency, holds promise for making computing infrastructure more reliable and flexible but requires foundational operating system changes...."We are particularly interested in your feedback on the Xen technology," Red Hat said in an announcement of the beta software.
Perhaps more importantly to many RHEL shops, version 5 of PHP is also slated to finally to be included for the first time in an official distribution of RHEL from Red Hat. To date, PHP5 has been out for more than two years but has escaped inclusion in RHEL (includes PHP4) which in turn has created certain support challenges for RHEL users. For example, if a recent stable version of your application software requires PHP5 but Red Hat doesn't officially support PHP5 in its "builds" of RHEL, then you have to turn to a third party to get that support. Given that RHEL ships with PHP4, I wondered whether replacing PHP4 with PHP5 might have any impact on users that have a support contract with Red Hat. Via email, here is what Red Hat spokesperson Caroline Kazmierski told me:
First you should know that PHP v5 will be included in RHEL 5, so I presume that the situation will take care of itself shortly. In the mean time, the reason PHP4 is not included / supported in RHEL4 is primarily due to the stability guidelines of RHEL. When development for RHEL4 was frozen, PHP5 was either not yet released or not yet stable enough to include in an enterprise class operating system. As part of our RHEL maintenance policy, we try to avoid re-basing (i.e. moving up a version, like from v4 to v5) during the life of a RHEL release to ensure maximum operating system stability; this policy applies to all RHEL packages and it is rare to see exceptions.
For clarification on support: Although PHP5 on RHEL4 is not a supported configuration, from a Red Hat perspective, installing PHP5 on RHEL4 does not invalidate all RHEL4 support. If a customer found an issue, unless we believed it to be directly related to PHP5, they would receive support based on their subscription level agreement. If it was believed to be directly related to PHP5, then we would ask that customer to reproduce the issue on a standard RHEL 4 installation (i.e. without PHP5); if the issue exists without PHP5, it would be fully supported based on their subscription level agreement.
It's great news that Red Hat doesn't invalidate support on the basis of PHP5 usage. At the same time, it would be a major headache to gut PHP5 from a system if Red Hat asked you to do so (in the course of diagnosing a problem). By finally supporting PHP5, that also means updates to PHP5 that have been tested with RHEL will flow through Red Hat's RPM-based update service. So, if you ask me, in addition to built-in support for Xen, PHP5 support in RHEL5 is one of the biggies to write home about.