Red Hat has rolled out a beta-test of the next version of its flagship OS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.2, with a new kernel and significant changes aimed at server farms and at workstations.

The test version, running on kernel version 2.6.18-84.el5, is intended to give system administrators a chance to see what their systems will be running later this year.

Versions are available for standard RHEL and the Advanced Platform edition running on 64-bit systems and mainframes, as well as workstation versions, with testing intended to run until 7 May, 2008.

For server virtualisation, Red Hat is updating its built-in Xen hypervisor to Xen 3.1.2, improving the Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA) interface and adding support for up to 64 processors per system with 512GB of memory per server.

The test version also updates server clustering capabilities, with tweaks to application failover support.

The new system includes better IPv6 support, with the addition of a DHCPv6 client and server.

On the desktop, Red Hat is refreshing most of the main workstation applications to their latest versions, with updates to Evolution, Firefox, OpenOffice and Thunderbird, among other applications.

Other desktop changes include better support for suspend and hibernation.

Technology previews include support for 32-bit virtual machines on 64-bit hardware platforms, and support for Trusted Platform Modules (TPM), required by some high-security users such as government agencies.

The test editions are available via Red Hat's automated update mechanism or through the Red Hat Network website.