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At Last, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6

Bye Xen, Hello KVM

  • April 21, 2010
  • By Sean Michael Kerner
Sean Michael Kerner

Linux vendor Red Hat today released the first public beta of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 (RHEL 6), giving observers a look at what's to come in the next version of its flagship operating system platform.

The new release takes advantage of a long list of new Linux kernel improvements for performance and scalability while also providing new technologies for security, management, and virtualization.

"When you look at RHEL 6, there is no one single feature that is the killer feature in the release," Tim Burke, vice president of platform engineering at Red Hat (NYSE: RHT), told InternetNews.com. "It's truly a release where the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts. It's a large, coordinated effort aiming for improved operational efficiency."

RHEL 6 will be the first major version update to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform since the RHEL 5 release in 2007. Red Hat has since updated RHEL 5 with five point releases, most recently with the RHEL 5.5 release earlier this month.

One of the major innovations of the RHEL 5 release was the inclusion of the open source Xen virtualization hypervisor. A lot has changed over the last three years in the open source virtualization space, however, namely the rise of KVM as the preferred virtualization technologies for vendors like Red Hat and IBM. As a result, Xen is not being included in RHEL 6, though support for current RHEL 5 users will remain in place for years to come, Red Hat has said.

Burke explained that RHEL 6 also includes technology that will ensure that RHEL 5 virtual guests can run on RHEL 6, converting Xen virtualization images to KVM so that users will be able to migrate if they so choose.

While Red Hat has been backporting new Linux kernel features into its RHEL 5 point releases over the last three years, Burke noted that with RHEL 6, Red Hat is delivering even more new capabilities.

"The way we do kernel development for RHEL 5, compatibility and stability are paramount considerations," Burke said. "So as we look at new kernel features, if it will break compatibility, we can't include them in the release. This is one of the impetuses that causes us to move to a major release like RHEL 6, which is when we have new, major features, which are too big to include in the standard RHEL 5."

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