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Upcoming Fedora 10 release foreshadows Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6

Fedora 10 debuts next month, with features to simplify administration, improve power efficiency and refine access controls -- changes that will ultimately find their way into Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

For Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) administrators, handling software packages, administering policies and managing networks all are going to get easier. At least that's the promise.

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Fedora, a Red Hat-sponsored community software development project, will introduce these changes first in Fedora 10, which is scheduled for release on Oct. 28. After more than a year of testing and user feedback, the improvements will be incorporated into production-ready RHEL 6 which is planned for release in the first quarter of 2010.

"Fedora is Red Hat's bleeding edge, an incubator for new technologies and features," said marketing manager Andy Cathrow. "Fedora sets our direction and gives you a good idea of what will appear next in RHEL … and other Linux distros, too," he said, citing recent Fedora-initiated Linux kernel and wireless innovations.

For starters, new Fedora 10's PackageKit will add a cross-platform front end that works with all Linux distributions. An improvement over RPM, or Red Hat Package Manager, PackageKit will simplify package management by bundling all components and dependencies required for a software install or change into a single entity. PackageKit also can issue software alerts and/or proceed with automatic update installs.

PolicyKit graduated access controls
Second, Fedora 10's PolicyKit will improve security by refining authentication privileges to specific users for specific purposes and conditions rather than granting unrestricted root, or universal, privileges.

"This is a framework to define rights, responsibilities and roles … that gives developers rules for granting authorization and deciding who is allowed to do what," Cathrow said. "Now it's an all-or-nothing approach … that could toss security out the window."

Similar to rules adopted by other Linux distros, PolicyKit complements the hard-and-fast access controls in SELinux with more granular guidelines for numerous specific roles and circumstances, he said.

Third, Fedora 10 improves power management by incorporating two energy-saving features initiated by Intel's Less Wattsinitiative. Specifically, Fedora 10 adds Tickless Idle, which stops unnecessary compute activity during idle mode, and has been a part of the Linux kernel since version 2.6.21. Fedora 10 also adds PowerTop, a tool for pinpointing applications that consume excess power in idle mode.

Fourth, the new Fedora version improves NetworkManager, especially helpful for desktops and laptops, with improved encryption, a virtual file system and other changes. A new encryption technology called Luks enables a laptop's entire hard disk to be encrypted instead of just a single partition, Cathrow said. The encryption also works on removable disk drives and thumb drives, he added. NetworkManager also adds a graphical user interface for tasks such as assigning multiple passwords, he said.

Virtualization Improvements
Fedora 10 also improves the Gnome Virtual File System (GVFS) by way of an abstraction layer that makes it possible to share files or add new features without worrying about underlying technologies such as Samba, Bluetooth or FTP, Cathrow said.

As for virtualization, Fedora 10 provides full interoperability between KVM and Xen with the addition of Xenner, which Cathrow described as a "compatibility layer" between the two hypervisors. Specifically, Gerd Hoffman, a Red Hat engineer, described Xenner as "a utility which is able to run xen paravirtualized kernels as guests on linux hosts, without the xen hypervisor, using kvm instead."

A glimpse of Linux's future
Paul Frields, Fedora's project leader, said that the purpose of the community open source development team is to advance the leading edge of technology with every new version.

"We work with Red Hat and the community to drive innovation and deliver new features and technologies," Frields said. "Fedora provides a preview of what's coming in RHEL and the enterprise Linux market as a whole."

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