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Red Hat discloses RHEL roadmap

Many improvements are coming to RHEL, including changes to installations, file systems and the user interface.

Since the 2012 summit, Red Hat has been working on Red Hat Enterprise Linux versions 6.5 and 7, including updates to the installer, Fedora 19, file systems and more.

We spoke to Denise Dumas, director of software engineering at Red Hat Inc., who outlined some of the upcoming features to be discussed at her Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) Roadmap panel at the 2013 Red Hat Summit.

Many of the changes have come as a response to user-experience testing performed throughout the intervening year, she said.

What changes can we expect as a result of user testing and feedback?

Denise Dumas: We introduced a classic mode [to Fedora 19] which, if you're comfortable with Gnome 2, you're going to find classic mode a no-brainer.

We think that people who are accustomed to Gnome 2 will use classic mode until they're ready to experiment with modern mode. Classic mode is going to be the default for RHEL 7, and we're in the final stages now. We're tweaking it and having people experiment with it. The last thing we want to do is disrupt our customers' workflows.

I think it's been hard for the Gnome guys, because they really, really love modern mode, because that's where their hearts are. But they've done a great job putting together classic mode for us, and I think it's going to keep people working on RHEL 5, 6 and 7 who don't want to retrain their fingers each time they switch operating systems -- I think classic mode's going to be really helpful for them.

For the installer in particular, there were a number of questions around partitioning, and I know they made some changes to the way they handle storage configuration. So that was one of the big things that came out of the [user] sessions.

We're looking to make XFS the new default for boot, for root and for user data predictions because it's a better match for our enterprise customers than btrfs seems to be.
Denise Dumasdirector of software engineering at Red Hat Inc.

There has been a lot of tweaking. I find that a lot of the user interface changes are fairly subtle, and yet the subtle things seem to make a huge difference. So just the places where the widgets happen to live, or the way that things are titled seems to make a huge difference. They've done a lot of things like that.

But not a lot of new features and such?

Dumas: Well, it's usability. It's trying to make it match people's mindsets. Trying to make it match the way that they think and that they approach a problem, and of course that's hard because people approach problems differently. We try to find a common ground that makes sense to people who are seeing, for example, installation for the first time. That's a whole different mindset than someone who's done 147 Kickstarts over the last year.

How has the last year influenced the topics you'll be discussing at the roadmap?

Dumas: We had a direction pretty much in place for RHEL 7 at the last summit, but what we've done in the last year is a lot of examination of use cases. We've gone back and looked at the experiences people have had as they've tried to manage servers, and we've tried to look at the workflows and make sure that what we're doing meets their expectations.

A major thing we've tried to take a much more serious look at is update-in-place -- going for RHEL 6 to RHEL 7 without having to do a fresh install. That's something that customers have asked us for, and we're making a lot of progress in being able to support it.

What improvements to virtualization and storage can we look forward to?

Dumas: There's been a ton of work done in virtualization and storage. You'll see a lot of it reflected in the storage road maps. I've got the engineering managers speaking -- if you're only going to go to one RHEL session [Red Hat Storage Server: Use Cases & Roadmap], that's the one to go to.

A lot of what we've done you'll see reflected in [RHEL] 6.5 as well. In 6.5, we've done a lot with parallel NFS. We did some performance improvements with the Fuse support -- we've focused a lot on tuning and hardening. We did some work with LVM [logical volume manager]. There are improvements to the thin provisioning support, upgrade rollback and scalable snapshots.

For RHEL 7, we've got multiple file systems. We're looking at more improvements to btrfs -- we're doing a lot of testing with that. We'll be supporting EXT 4, XFS and btrfs in addition to EXT2 and EXT3, but we're looking to make XFS the new default for boot, for root and for user data predictions because it's a better match for our enterprise customers than btrfs seems to be. [Btrfs] will certainly be supported, and you'll be able to choose it if that's you want, it's just not going to be our default. …

What do you think Red Hat system administrators should most look forward to next week?

Dumas: There's a really interesting set of sessions [during Red Hat Summit 2013] on Red Hat software collections that we sent out to beta this week. That gives us the ability to add dynamic languages and the later versions of databases that can live side by side with the system base versions of those languages and databases. We're introducing it on RHEL 6, and we'll be supporting it as well through RHEL 7. …

I think the software collections are going to be really interesting to anyone looking at a development environment. Our developer toolset got a big update as well so that's out in beta right now. That's our method for getting the latest C, C++ and Java available on our existing RHEL 6 platforms. I think that will be interesting for people. …

We've done a huge amount of work, which I haven't even mentioned, in the networking space. We've got [Precision Time Protocol] coming out fully supported for 6.5, so that's going to make our Wall Street customers happy.

And we've also got Open vSwitch. We added it in support of things like OpenStack. We're looking at network namespace changes as well in support of OpenStack. VSwitch is a software switch that lets you use it as a virtual switch for virtual server environments. It forwards traffic between different VMs [virtual machines] on the physical host and also lets you forward traffic between VMs on the physical network. It's tied to a bunch of different management interfaces, and it has programmatic extension and control through things like OpenFlow. We put initial support in for 6.4, but we're re-basing it and pulling it out as fully supported and adding the user space packages in 6.5.

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