May 21, 2008

Latest Red Hat Enterprise Linux released

Author: Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Red Hat is on top of the business Linux world and it has no intentions of coming down. Its newest release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), version 5.2, is designed to make sure that it stays on top.

Red Hat plans on keeping its big name customers, such as the New York Stock Exchange Euronext cash equity market, by introducing improvements in six major areas with the 5.2 release. These are: virtualization, the desktop, security, clustering and storage, networking and IPv6, and serviceability. On top of this, however, there is another major move forward: broader hardware architecture support.

In particular, RHEL 5.2 provides enhanced capabilities for x86/x86-64, Itanium, IBM POWER and S/390 architectures. These improvements are primarily in performance, power usage, scalability, and manageability. For instance, Red Hat claims that RHEL will support Intel's Dynamic Acceleration Technology in the Core 2 chip families by enabling power saving by idling unused CPU cores, while also offering performance gains by overclocking busy cores. Red Hat also announced that, for the first time, RHEL has been certified on IBM's new Cell Blade architecture.

In virtualization, RHEL 5.2 can support virtualization on systems with up to 64 CPUs and 512 GB of memory per CPU. Virtualization support for Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA) is also included.

The new virtualization features also include virtualization-aware, PV (para-virtualized) device drivers. This gives the VM more direct access to the hardware, which in turn gives improved I/O performance. This can only be used by guest instances of RHEL on the x86 and x86-64 architectures. Still, on these systems, if Red Hat is correct, administrators will see better overall throughput. To manage all this, RHEL 5.2 uses an improved version of Libvirt, a Red Hat-sponsored open source hypervisor-agnostic virtualization management framework.

In a bit of surprising news -- since Red Hat recently drew back from the consumer Linux desktop market -- the Raleigh, North Carolina-based Linux distributor is also offering significant improvements in its desktop offering.

Besides including newer versions of common desktop applications like Evolution 2.12.3 for email and groupware, Firefox 3 for Web browsing and OpenOffice 2.3 for office work, Red Hat has also added Suspend/Hibernate/Resume enhancements for laptops. Finally, Red Hat has updated many of its graphic drivers.

For better security, Red Hat has backported the new asynchronous kernel crypto hardware driver APIs from the upstream 2.6.22 Linux kernel into RHEL 5.2's 2.6.18 kernel. This will enable developers to create drivers for cryptographic hardware devices. Red Hat has also added SHA-256/SHA-512 password encryption support and RFC4303 compliant auditing support. This, in turn, not only improves RHEL's security but makes it more attractive to government IT buyers with their strict security purchase requirements.

On the clustering and storage front, Red Hat Cluster Suite, which comes with the RHEL 5 Advanced Platform, now has a Resource Event Scripting Language. This should make it easier to write applications that will make the most of a clustered environment. RHEL 5.2 also has better iSCSI support for storage area networks (SANs).

In networking, Red Hat claims it has greatly improved its IPv6 support. In particular, RHEL 5.2 now supports OpenSwan 5.2. This means users will be able to run IPv6 IPSec virtual private networks (VPNs).

Last, but not least, RHEL 5.2 also fully supports SystemTap kernel tracing for developers. SystemTap user-space tracing is also available but only as a technology preview. In addition, all earlier individual software fixes have been consolidated into the RHEL 5.2 release.

RHEL 5.2 became available on May 21st. RHN (Red Hat Network) subscription owners will automatically get this update.


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