Red Hat President and CEO Jim Whitehurst took the opportunity to have a dig at Oracle after he asked the audience at the company's technical conference whether they wanted flexibility in their IT architectures, or if they wanted to be locked into Oracle.

During his keynote presentation at the Red Hat Summit 2009 conference in Chicago, Whitehurst covered Red Hat talking points, including how the company is working to build future IT architectures that are flexible and allow its customers to meet demands of their own internal customers. Ellison, on the other hand, presents the opposite of flexibility, according to Whitehurst.

"Do you want to buy into Larry Ellison's vision of what your IT infrastructure should be and what functionality you should provide to your customers, or should you listen to your customers and be flexible," Whitehurst asked. Red Hat and Oracle have been in fierce competition, with Oracle offering customer support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and thus potentially cutting into Red Hat's critical revenue stream. Oracle, contacted after Whitehurst's presentation, declined to respond to his remarks about Ellison.

Whitehurst also described what he termed an "inflection point in enterprise IT," in which new, high-profile ventures, such as Google, Twitter, Red Hat, Facebook, and Wikipedia, all are based on the power of participation.

"These companies would not exist if it were not for open source," and the ability to innovate quickly, said Whitehurst.

Red Hat, he said, believes in a layered architecture where there are layers that should be commoditised. The company also is helping hundreds of customers build clouds, Whitehurst said.

Noting the company's acquisition of open source Java middleware vendor JBoss, Whitehurst said he is often asked why Red Hat did not buy Java framework vendor SpringSource. "Well, we don't want to prescribe what framework, what language, how you want to build your functionality. We want to build for all of them," he said. Red Hat is holding its JBoss World conference concurrently with Red Hat Summit.

At the conference, Red Hat announced availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4, which serves as the foundation of the company's enterprise virtualization portfolio. It features KVM (kernel-based virtual machine) technology and Intel Virtualisation Technology for Directed I/O as well as PCI-SIG SR-IOV, enabling multiple virtual machines in an Intel Xeon Processor 5500 Series platform to directly share I/O devices, Red Hat said.

Version 5.4 also offers advancements in performance, security and storage, the company said.

Red Hat's Paul Cormier, executive vice president of products and technologies, stressed the company's emphasis on virtualisation. "We're going to make virtualisation readily available and readily deployable throughout the enterprise data centre," Cormier said.

Red Hat also announced availability of Red Hat Network Satellite 5.3, for on-premises systems management. It enables software updates, configuration management, provisioning and monitoring across physical and virtual Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers. The 5.3 release supports KVM and Xen virtualisation and offers increased flexibility for systems management as well as faster provisioning.