Red Hat has added its Enterprise Linux OS to Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service that hosts business applications.

The move is part of Red Hat's "automation" strategy, which aims to deliver a Linux and open-source infrastructure for simplifying how applications are managed.

A private beta of Red Hat Enterprise Linux is now available on Amazon EC2, with a public beta expected to be made available before the end of the year. The base prices for the service are $19 per month, per user, and $0.21, $0.53 or $0.94 for every computer hour used on the EC2 services, depending on the size, bandwidth and storage fees of the services purchased. EC2 is Amazon's web-based service that hosts business applications.

Red Hat has also released a new OS for delivering applications on appliances and made available Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.1, with improvements to its virtualisation offering that extends support to virtual guests for Windows XP, Server 2000, Server 2003 and the Windows 2008 beta, the company said.

Red Hat said its virtualisation software is now being deployed on more than 18,000 servers, although executives, speaking on a conference call, wouldn't say whether those servers were in full deployment or test environments. The company is under pressure to deliver virtualisation for Red Hat Enterprise Linux that is on par with competitors.

The new Red Hat Appliance OS will enable third-party software vendors to customise and configure their applications on appliances to run either in dedicated, virtualised or hosted environments. The software is expected to be available in the first half of 2008. The new appliance OS includes the Virtual Appliance Development Kit.

Red Hat already offers the leading enterprise Linux OS in the world, but is being pressured by Wall Street to expand its offerings beyond Linux and stay competitive with the likes of Oracle that are encroaching on its turf. The company purchased open-source Java middleware company JBoss last year as part of this strategy.

Red Hat ultimately wants to design an open-source infrastructure for delivering applications on virtual servers, dedicated services or so-called on-demand services clouds like EC2, said Scott Crenshaw, vice president of enterprise Linux at Red Hat. He said the company plans to build into the "fabric of the infrastructure" tools to manage quality of service, application mobility and availability so the infrastructure is as intuitive as possible for IT managers to navigate and manage.