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Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.4 doubles down on edge computing

The latest version of RHEL gives users additional management features and includes capabilities that will serve as the foundation of Red Hat's edge computing initiative.

Red Hat Inc. stretched the tentacles of its operating system further out to the edge with a new version that makes edge deployments easier, along with a new Linux container and a handful of management capabilities.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 8.4, which will serve as the foundation for the Red Hat Edge initiative, delivers the capabilities of several products and services in the company's portfolio to edge applications. The new release aims at a handful of vertical markets including transportation, enterprise devices and smart automobiles, particularly the telecommunications market. The focus on telecommunications doesn't come as a surprise to most analysts.

"Red Hat is going after users in several verticals with this version, but its strongest vertical has been the telecommunications industry," said Judith Hurwitz, president of Hurwitz & Associates, a consultancy in Needham, Mass. "This version tells you telecommunications is not an afterthought with them."

Some of RHEL 8.4's new features improve the way the operating system works with several of the company's bread-and-butter products, including OpenShift. With OpenShift's support for three-node clusters and remote worker nodes, it's easier to deploy Kubernetes in resource-constrained locations -- including in outer space. The new offering also works with Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes, which extends centralized IT control of distant edge locations, the company said.

Working with the Red Hat Integration product, RHEL 8.4 can connect applications and data across edge deployments using an open hybrid cloud. Lastly, version 8.4 better enables Red Hat Data Services to store, analyze and distribute data more efficiently across both edge and data centers.

Tying OpenShift more tightly to the company's other software offerings is an indication of not only the strategic importance of OpenShift, but the growing importance of those applications to the edge strategies of Red Hat RHEL and IBM.

"Increasingly over the past few months you see why IBM spent that kind of money [$34 billion] to buy Red Hat," Hurwitz said. "IBM is putting OpenShift at the center of what it's doing and Red Hat is now highly leveraging offerings like Ansible and Advanced Cluster Management."

In its recent 2021 State of the Edge report, the Linux Foundation forecast that by 2025, the internet of things or edge-related devices will produce some 90 zettabytes of data.

Over the past few months you see why IBM spent that kind of money [$34 billion] to buy Red Hat. IBM is putting OpenShift at the center of what it's doing and Red Hat is now highly leveraging offerings like Ansible and Advanced Cluster Management.
Judith HurwitzPresident, Hurwitz & Associates

Red Hat will hardly be running alone in its chase of edge computing dollars, competing against Dell with its modular data centers, VMware, and a range of open source competitors including Canonical and SuSE. 

The edge is where businesses are less equipped to handle the delivery of individual components, wrote Scott Sinclair, an analyst with market researchers Enterprise Strategy Group, in a recent report on the edge market.

"User organizations need full solutions designed, delivered and deployed together. This is one reason why I find Dell's modular data centers so interesting," he wrote. 

Red Hat also updated Podman, RHEL's container engine that enables management of containers across hybrid clouds. The offering can now carry out that function from the core data center or remote locations, offering automated container updates. This is designed to make it easier to keep containerized workloads operating at the edge more securely.

The company also enriched its Image Builder tool, allowing it to create customized operating system images for edge computing workloads. It now supports the creation of installation media for bare metal, which aids in maintaining a common foundation across disconnected environments.

In his keynote address at Red Hat Summit on Tuesday, Red Hat's Matt Hicks, executive vice president of products and technologies, announced that Snam, owner of one of the world's largest gas networks, has deployed OpenShift and several other Red Hat applications. Those applications include Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management and Red Hat Quay, a registry program for managing containerized content.

RHEL 8.4 will be available in the coming weeks, according to the Red Hat customer portal.

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

As Editor At Large with TechTarget's News Group, Ed Scannell is responsible for writing and reporting breaking news, news analysis and features focused on technology issues and trends affecting corporate IT professionals. He has also worked for 26 years at Infoworld and Computerworld covering enterprise class products and technologies from larger IT companies including IBM and Microsoft, as well as serving as Editor of Redmond for three years, overseeing that magazine's editorial content.

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