Red Hat has released a beta version of a Linux-based hypervisor that can be loaded onto servers and desktop computers with a flash drive.

Rather than produce another Xen-based server virtualisation platform, Red Hat opted to base its newest product on the KVM (kernel-based virtual machine) software that's been integrated with the Linux kernel since 2006. Red Hat's Linux hypervisor, named oVirt, now in beta and available at oVirt.org, is capable of hosting both the Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Red Hat, announcing the product at its fourth annual Summit in Boston, said that oVirt supports live migration - a key server virtualisation feature that lets users move an application running on a virtual server from one physical device to another without any downtime.

Red Hat first started talking about oVirt earlier this year and stresses the ease of installation.

"oVirt's aim is to transform the host virtualisation layer into a small stateless image which can be embedded on FLASH, or booted off a CD or PXE," Red Hat said in February. "No local disks needed. No installs. A physical server can become a virtual server just by booting oVirt."

The software fits on a 64-megabyte flash drive and can boot on virtually any piece of x86 hardware, Brian Stevens, Red Hat CTO and vice president of engineering, said at a press conference Wednesday. Linux has long run on top of virtualisation software, but Red Hat previously hadn't developed a hypervisor based on Linux, he said.

"We think this type of computing is absolutely right for open source solutions," said Paul Cormier, Red Hat president of products and technologies. "We want to extend the reach of open source virtualisation ... to all environments, all systems out there. We just think virtualisation will be ubiquitous."

Red Hat said it's not abandoning Xen, the open source hypervisor used by Citrix's XenSource division and several other virtualisation vendors. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution comes with the Xen hypervisor for free. And while the current version of oVirt has no traces of Xen in it today, the architectural model of KVM would allow a version utilising Xen source code, Cormier said.

"You'll see us [continue to be] directly involved with Xen and advancing Xen technologies," Stevens said.

In addition to releasing the beta of oVirt, Red Hat on Wednesday brought a virtualisation security tool known as FreeIPA out of beta and into general availability. FreeIPA was started one year ago to provide identity, policy and audit capabilities, alleviating security concerns about virtualisation in production environments, according to Red Hat.

FreeIPA offers centralised security for virtual environments, while oVirt offers a Web-based virtualisation management platform. Despite fitting on a small USB drive, Stevens said "This is not a toy, this is a full support, heavyweight virtualisation solution based on the core Linux."