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Was I Too Tough on RHEL 5?

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Linux

In the April 2/9, 2007, issue, I gave Red Hat's Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and its brand-new Xen virtualization features a bit of a hard time with regard to the limitations of its management tools. Relative to the products of VMware, the current market/mind share leader in x86 server virtualization, Red Hat's Xen implementation has a decidedly do-it-yourself nature—less pointing and clicking and more configuration file editing and documentation digging.

During an e-mail exchange about the review, a reader challenged me on whether it was fair to criticize RHEL 5's graphical user interface limitations and remarked on his disgust at finding how many tasks in VMware are point-and-click-oriented. Disgust seems to me like a pretty extreme reaction to a software interface, but I think that people chafe at the idea that an inferior product with a newbie-oriented interface—the archetype of which being Windows—might trump an arguably technologically superior option that greets you instead with a blinking command-line cursor and a trove of config files.

As the reader also pointed out, GUIs typically make things easy by limiting flexibility, and having your hands tied isn't fun, even if the binding is being done by a friendly wizard. To be sure, I felt my own GUI-borne pain during my testing of VMware's Virtual Infrastructure 3, which regresses significantly from VMware's typically good cross-platform compatibility record by supporting only Windows for its VI3 management client. Along similar lines, while testing Virtual Iron 3.5, I felt the pinch of lacking direct control of the virtualization nodes that Virtual Iron governs instead through the graphical interface to its management server.

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