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RHEL 8 launches with AI, container and hybrid cloud focus

Red Hat rolled out its long-awaited Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8, designed to work across corporate data centers and multiple clouds and anchor its container and AI strategies.

BOSTON -- Red Hat Inc. released its much anticipated Red Hat Enterprise Linux RHEL 8, built to improve the company's position in the rapidly evolving world of hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

Rolled out at today's annual Red Hat Summit conference, the company's ambitions for RHEL 8 stretch beyond having the operating system just better compete in multiple cloud environments, however. The company also positioned it to serve as the foundation of its platform to support its corporate-wide container strategy and the launch pad for its AI-based applications development.

"What we did differently in preparing RHEL 8 was focus on two things: scalability and automation for hybrid and multi-clouds," said Ron Pacheco, Red Hat's director of product management for Enterprise Linux. "With past versions it was about overachieving for virtualized data centers and things like OpenStack."

Red Hat spent a generous amount of its development time on version 8 to make it more intelligent and intuitive, so it can be deployed and managed at scale more easily, according to Pacheco.

"We spent a lot of time hardening technologies like the web console, as well as improving the RHEL System Roles to help with automating various functions across the environment, including security," Pacheco said.

Making its official debut in RHEL 8 is Application Streams, designed to separate user-space packages from the operating system's kernel. This feature allows users to quickly deliver new versions of their on-premises or cloud-based applications with minor versions of RHEL, so they don't have to wait for major versions to come to market.

The offering is an evolution of the company's Software Collections, a technology that has been used to update a range of languages, databases and frameworks. The company said there will be versions of applications for a variety of offerings, including MongoDB, Node.js and MySQL.

"We see Application Streams as a way of delivering innovation at the same rate that innovation is happening upstream, where we can then curate, secure and give lifecycle support to all of the user space packages," Pacheco said.

Some analysts see the Application Streams capability as a necessary feature because it gives Linux a more modern look and could serve to attract the new breed of corporate and third-party developers.

RHEL 8 will serve as the foundation of the company's hybrid cloud strategy going forward, company officials said, including the Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform 4 and the unreleased Red Hat OpenStack Platform 15. RHEL 8 will also serve as the foundation for Red Hat Enterprise Linux CoreOS, a scaled down version of RHEL 8 that will host Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform deployments.

"OpenShift is co-engineered among OpenShift and Kubernetes engineers and the RHEL team," Pacheco said. "There is a direct relationship between Kubernetes and the underlying kernel and core services. For that reason, Core OS is considered a feature of OpenShift, so we will not be shipping a separate version of CoreOS for the foreseeable future."

Some analysts gave the new version a thumbs up, saying they liked the idea of RHEL 8 serving as the underlying infrastructure, not just for version 8, but for future versions as well, which will make IT professionals lives a bit easier when they upgrade to newer versions. One analyst believes the company did what it needed to do, namely give RHEL a facelift to accommodate the latest infrastructure technology.

"Enterprises are looking to modernize their infrastructure built on a more secure and stable platform," said Ashish Nadkarni, group vice president of IDC's infrastructure systems, platforms and technologies group.

Another analyst with a major research firm in the Northeastern U.S. said he liked some of the features included in RHEL 8 but thought Red Hat put too much strategic emphasis on the new version. The more strategic technology from Red Hat involves shifting to OpenShift, he said.

What we did differently in preparing RHEL 8 was focus on two things: scalability and automation for hybrid and multi-clouds.
Ron PachecoDirector of product management for Enterprise Linux, Red Hat

Recent numbers from IDC show that 70% of IT shops now deploy multi-cloud environments and, on average, 64% of applications are based in a cloud environment. Red Hat executives believe version 8 can be a central launching pad for just such applications.

Some users at the conference anticipate difficulty upgrading to RHEL 8 from RHEL 6 and weren't clear on which applications will run on RHEL 8.

"We have an older version of RHEL and I'm not looking forward to the upgrade experience [to RHEL 8], although they have a new version of the [Red Hat Enterprise Linux Upgrade Helper] tool," said one sys admin from a large Colorado-based university. "I would like to know what apps I can start working with," he said.

Another new feature is Red Hat Insights, a SaaS-based offering capable of identifying and remediating a range of different IT issues, including security vulnerabilities and other problems threatening the stability of the environment. The software uses predictive analytics, drawing on Red Hat's experience of open technologies, to help system administrator's problems and downtime in production environments.

RHEL 8 supports the OpenSSL 1.1.1 and TLS 1.3 cryptographic standards that can be now implemented system-wide using just one command, according to Red Hat. This capability cuts down on the need for application-specific policies and tuning.

Also generally available is the Red Hat Universal Base Image, a user space image derived from Red Hat Enterprise Linux intended for building Red Hat-certified Linux containers. The offering is available to all developers whether or not they have a RHEL subscription.

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