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Now that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 has been available for a few months, it seems like a good time to stand back and take a higher-level look at the new member of the server family – Advanced Platform.

In previous releases of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, we had AS and ES server variants. Have you noticed how nobody is mourning that we dropped them? Although they don’t exist with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, these variants were vital to establishing the Enterprise Linux product line. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the two variants was that they were technically identical. The same package set, same updates, same everything - except for a single file that contained the AS or ES name. Keeping them the same was very important because it meant that an ISV only needed to certify his application once, whereupon it was certified on both variants. Where AS and ES differed, of course, was that the subscriptions for them provided different services and hardware system support. For example, ES only supported systems with up to two processor sockets, while AS supported systems of any size and additional architectures, such as IBM POWER. Also, AS was available with Premium 24×7 support, while ES wasn’t. This simple segmentation allowed us to provide different price points that were appropriate to the server on which Red Hat Enterprise Linux was running. Although it may not always seem like it, larger servers really do take a lot more engineering and support cycles to build, integrate, test and service, so the AS-ES price differential was appropriate.

With Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 we decided to take a fresh look at things. While the AS-ES segmentation worked well and was understood by our existing customers, it often proved hard to explain to new partners, sales people and customers. With Red Hat Enterprise Linux growing very rapidly into new markets, we wanted to eliminate this difficulty. These new customers will be the new mainstream – all those millions of Unix and Windows customers who are not "early adopters," but are now ready to deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux. We realized that we needed a segmentation model that worked smoothly. The last thing we want is a Microsoft customer who is considering moving to Red Hat Enterprise Linux being confused by unclear product segmentation.

So, out with AS and ES, in with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform. But the change is a lot more subtle than a simple name change. Our goal is to make Advanced Platform the default choice for the mainstream – one simple to understand, comprehensive product. Everywhere.

It is important to note that while AS and ES were technically identical, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform are not. Both variants, of course, contain the same base technology. An ISV certification on the base Red Hat Enterprise Linux product automatically accrues to Advanced Platform. But Advanced Platform also includes a number of additional, very important technologies.

Advanced Platform includes all of Red Hat’s storage and clustering capabilities, providing the ability to deploy virtualized storage and high availability configurations - all for the same price as the previous AS product. Given that these products cost $2,200 on prior versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, this represents a very significant cost saving.

Referring back to our goal of meeting the needs of the mainstream market, we are confident that Advanced Platform is the product to do this. With Advanced Platform, a customer who may or may not be new to Linux can deploy an all-inclusive solution that provides server and storage virtualization, coupled with high availability. Technologies include multi-system logical volume management and file system, cluster failover, multi-path I/O, distributed lock management, multi-system management tools and more. In a stroke it eliminates the need to hand craft an equivalent solution using a combination of third-party products.

While many of our technically sophisticated customers will continue to use third-party products for various layers of their operating system infrastructure (and we work closely with our ISV partners to ensure that they can do this), Advanced Platform provides a level of one-stop shopping that will greatly simplify life for the mainstream customer.

Advanced Platform supports all high volume architectures (32 & 64 bit x86, Itanium, POWER) and is suitable for servers of any size. The virtualization capability will support any number of virtual machines, up to the capacity of the hardware, and supports live migration across systems. The clustering capability supports configurations with several hundred systems.

We have not forgotten the base Red Hat Enterprise Linux product. This is a direct replacement for the original ES variant and, naturally, includes all the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 features, such as server virtualization for up to four operating system guests. And on the services side, we leveled the playing field by offering a Premium 24×7 subscription and by adding support for IBM POWER systems (previously these were only available with AS subscriptions). We retained the two processor socket limit, for the reasons mentioned above.

For existing customers transitioning from earlier versions to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, the move is straightforward. A Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription allows a customer to download the new version at any time for no additional charge. And when it is time to renew the subscription, direct translations are provided from ES to the base Red Hat Enterprise Linux product and from AS to Advanced Platform. Prices and, where it was possible, part numbers remain the same.

In summary, we see the completeness of Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform proving attractive for all markets, customers and applications. Meanwhile, the base Red Hat Enterprise Linux product remains ideal for small systems, generally in smaller deployments. Some large scale-out environments based, for example, on two socket blade servers may also wish to use base Red Hat Enterprise Linux, although the shared storage aspects of Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform will also be very useful in these configurations.