SWsoft's OpenVZ project, which develops an open source virtualisation product, has announced availability of beta level software based on the Linux kernel 2.6.18 - preparing users for the upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL5) and Debian GNU/Linux 4 releases.

"We are keeping in step with the very latest Linux technology to benefit the advanced users in the open source community," said project manager Kir Kolyshkin. "We've actually had OpenVZ for the 2.6.18 kernel available in our code repository since 'day one,' but are releasing the OpenVZ software now after further development."

Linux-based OpenVZ uses OS-level server virtualisation, and has a similar relationship to SWsoft's Virtuozzo virtualisation product as the Fedora project does to Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

The technology is similar to Xen, although Kolyshkin reckoned that his product is ahead of Xen for a number of reasons. "We use a single kernel and so we are lighter, while Xen has multiple different kernels," he said.

"With VT enabled hardware, you can run Windows and Linux on same box, also BSD," he said. "We have a single kernel to run virtualisation stuff to create those containers. Our overhead is lower than Xen too -- it's about two or three percent."

Kolyshkin says that its strength also lies in its alliances, such as the company's support and distribution deals with IBM and Red Hat.

The new OpenVZ kernel software can be downloaded here.