Red Hat, Intel open joint Linux testing facilities

Some Canadian Linux VARs have mixed feelings over a joint effort between Intel Corp. and Red Hat Inc. to provide partners with access to hardware platforms online and at centres around the world.

The closest centres or hubs (there are 17 in total) for resellers in Canada, depending on their location, are in McLean, Va., Chicago, Mountain View, Calif. and New York City. The Virginia one is expected to open sometime this month, according to Intel. For the price of an airline ticket, David Fitzerman, vice-president of DFC Internet Computing in Thornhill, Ont. just north of Toronto said he’d rather buy a server and have it reside at one of his company’s sites.

“Will it be of use for us? Absolutely not. It’s in the States,” said Fitzerman, adding DFC already makes use of IBM’s Innovation Centre in Toronto where he has access to its z-series and x-series servers. DFC develops ERP and HR applications that are based on Red Hat and Suse distributions of Linux.

Other sites include Mumbai, Munich, Paris and Stockholm.

Another advantage to having the hardware up here is for customer testing, said Fitzerman.

“They want to see it on their site, running on their hardware, running as their application,” he said. “You don’t show someone a firewall running in India. You do it in Canada.”

The centres, which will all be located at Red Hat facilities and offer support from services and solution experts, are equipped with Intel Itanium 2 and Intel Xeon processor-based servers. Intel will also make available pre-production platforms such as the upcoming Woodcrest and Bentley platforms that were announced at last month’s Intel Developer Forum conference in San Francisco. Additionally, the sites will include access to Intel Centrino mobile technology-based laptops and Intel-based storage devices. All of this hardware is also accessible to resellers online via a secured portal.

“It gives them access to pre-production and production platforms from Intel to work closely with the experts and ensure their solutions work on the platform,” said Dirk Hohndel, director of Linux and open source strategy for Intel’s software and solutions group.

Intel and Red Hat made the announcement Tuesday at the Linuxworld conference currently being held in Boston. The program is geared towards helping partners like DFC develop tools for software virtualization in the enterprise.

“If you look at the leading edge technologies that we’re bringing to the market, virtualization is very interesting to a lot of our customers,” said Hohndel. “It solves a lot of problems that customers have had around consolidation, security and stability of their solutions.”

Virtualization is on the minds of many technology vendors today. On Monday, Microsoft announced the Virtual Server 2005 R2 is available for download. The software allows users to run Linux programs in a virtual environment alongside Microsoft applications.

While John Van Ostrand is not in the software development line of business, his company, Net Direct Inc., which he co-owns, will be able to take advantage of some of the aspects the program offers to system integrators.

“If I were to use it I would probably be interested in using it for training purposes,” said Van Ostrand, who is also company CTO. “We don’t have Itanium systems around here. Working on them is a little different.”

Based in Waterloo, Ont., Net Direct is a systems integrator that provides hardware infrastructure and services to companies ranging from 10 to 3,000 seats. Some of its larger customers include Research In Motion and Basics Office Products, which has eight retail stores in Ontario and sells business supplies to organizations.

Van Ostrand added the centres would also be helpful for testing products such as the open source virtualization technology called Xen, which Red Hat and Novell’s Suse offer as part of their server products.

The sites also offer training, proof of concept testing and application testing and porting.

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