Rackspace, one of the leading hosting specialists, has announced a high-end Linux-based hosting service aimed at enterprises. The Red Label service offers a higher level of support than has been seen before on Linux hosting services, according to industry observers.

Red Label also brings Novell into the company for the first time. Rackspace has more than 4,500 Linux configurations, but in the past these have all been based on Red Hat's Linux products. Red Label will use Dell hardware and a combination of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), managed by Suse and Red Hat Certified Engineers.

Rackspace is using Novell's ZENworks Linux Management software to administer the Red Label infrastructure. The company said it was attracted by ZENworks' ability to manage SLES as well as Red Hat. "Tapping Novell to manage our Linux servers gives us flexibility to deploy what we want, when we want, as well as lowering our costs of management," said Paul Froutan, Rackspace's vice president of product development, in a statement.

Rackspace has long offered Linux hosting, but the new service greatly increases the level of support. Services include a distributed patching system, monitoring systems, applications infrastructure support for Oracle, MySQL, JBoss and Apache and a technology planning programme.

The level of service is comparable to Rackspace's Windows-based enterprise hosting offering, the company said. Rackspace has traditionally offered similar levels of Windows and Linux deployments, but has seen greatly increased demand for enterprise Linux hosting in recent months, according to the company. Rackspace's revenues from Linux have doubled since January of last year, according to Froutan.

Red Label, available in Europe as well as the US, is aimed at companies running applications on J2EE or the so-called LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl/Python). Rackspace is also hoping to lure companies migrating from Sun to Linux.

The offering may be a good way for enterprises to try out Linux without having to worry about making a full in-house switch.

"Enterprises are increasingly interested in the benefits of Linux, but given the diversity of vendors and relative newness of some of the technology, these enterprises may not have the resources in-house to manage a complex Linux deployment," said Gartner analyst Ted Chamberlin.