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Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL 8): One OS to Rule them All?

Five years in the making, there's a lot new in RHEL 8

By CBR Staff Writer

RHEL 8: It’s the last “pure” Red Hat Operating System (OS) before open source heavyweight Red Hat is consumed by IBM. Five years in the making and unveiled at the Red Hat Summit in Boston Massachusetts, there’s much new…

With Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 the company is aiming for the rapidly growing hybrid cloud market, rolling out new application update features and trying to tackle the complaint that Red Hat lags on containers with Linux container options.

Speaking at the summit in Boston, Red Hat’s VP of RHEL Stefanie Chiras said: “We want to redefine the value of an operating system.”

The IT industry is moving at a faster pace than ever before, she stressed, with enterprises continually trying to integrate new technologies such as machine learning and containerisation, amid a flurry of new hardware and software environments.

“At the end of the day with all that change, something has to stay the same, so that the work you did yesterday still provides you benefit next month and the next deployment. That’s what Linux is today, it’s that one thing that doesn’t change,” she said.

RHEL 8 will be instrumental to users’ ability to smoothly keep up to date with moving trends: in short, it’s a future-proof OS, was the suggestion.

Introducing Red Hat Insights

RHEL 8

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A key fear for any user or organisations is the threat of system downtime; be this from the emergence of a bug or a poorly planned software upgrade or integration.

To mitigate these types of issues RHEL 8 comes with Red Hat Insights as standard, a predictive analytics offering that taps Red Hat developers’ understanding of open source software.

Insights predictive analytics will assess all components of your system’s infrastructure from the physical to the virtual, including cloud and containerised environments. The user will be alerted to any potential issues with regards to stability or expiring licenses. Red Hat Insights is also tasked with highlighting any security vulnerabilities.

Gunnar Hellekson, director of product management at Red Hat Enterprise commented in Boston that: “For me this is probably the most exciting part of the RHEL 8 release.”

“Now we have a tool for taking 15 years of support tickets and knowledge based articles, architectural expertise and technical expertise into being able to feed that back to our clients in the form of coaching.”

“So being able to let a customer know that, hey, you might have that security fix that you haven’t applied over here or you might have an opportunity for a performance improvement over here or this configuration doesn’t look quite right you might want to take a look at that.”

RHEL 8 Application Streams

In RHEL 8 the main repository, BaseOS, is the main provider of the distribution of the system’s operation, be that a cloud instance or a virtual machine.

The Application Stream or AppStream repository, meanwhile, supplies all the applications a user may select to run, While the Supplemental repository is the source of software that requires special licensing. This lets RHEL 8 systems be run using only two repositories enabled. In previous RHEL versions if a user wished to look for alternative versions of software they would have looked in the Red Hat Software Collections (RHSCL) or Extras repositories. With the launch of RHEL 8 Red Hat are introducing Modularity which allows user to access alternative versions of software within the same physical repository. This is done by creating multiple virtual repositories all of which are contained in the AppStreams.

Many enterprise software users tend to undertake ‘pinning’ which is the retaining of an existing version of software, sometimes done even when support and distribution have moved on, this of course leaves them in a vulnerable position as they will miss out on bug fixes and updates.

RHEL 8

In RHEL 8 Red Hat are including Application Streams as default, when using a particular software version it is locked in the flowing ‘stream’ of backwards compatible updates and fixes.

This allows developers to continue working with the software integral to their core infrastructure, while also keeping stable up-to-date software in place, distributed in a single operating system.

Application Streams are installed to the normal on-disk locations, but will now contain metadata that shows the user what is available in the stream and informs the them of its stability and if it’s the latest version; two things that do not often mean the same thing, as recent Microsoft updates have showcased.

New Graphical Web Console

In order to simplify the user experience of the offering, RHEL 8 hides the sometimes convoluted looking sysadmin tasks. These are instead represented in a graphical interface by the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Web Console. With the console users get system information relating to the status of their virtual machines and can view the overall performance of their infrastructure as a whole.

Also included in the launch of RHEL 8 is full support for Red Hat’s container toolkit. This open standards-based container toolkit is built with enterprise IT security needs in mind, Red Hat said, with Buildah (container building), Podman(running containers) and Skopeo (sharing/finding containers) helping developers find, run, build and share containerised applications quicker, owing to the daemonless nature of the tools.

Tibor Incze, technical lead of Red Hat Enterprise Linux at Datacom Systems Ltd. commented in the announcement that: “The capacity for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 to not only run multiple versions of the same application or database on a specific operating system but to also have a clear and efficient way to manage them is a significant benefit to Datacom and our customers.”

“As we continue to execute on our internal DevOps strategy, we’re also pleased to see improved container capabilities in the operating system and extensive automation, all factors that will help us bring differentiated services to our end users.”

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