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RHEL 8 promises relief from dependency hell, more integration

With RHEL hitting platform maturity, Red Hat's future includes Microsoft integration, expanded management and a smaller footprint.

SAN FRANCISCO -- IT shops that use Red Hat can expect product integration with Microsoft for the foreseeable future.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is hitting maturity as a server OS with widespread enterprise adoption, so RHEL 8 updates should focus on security and stability, and integration with various tools.

But the RHEL roadmap's biggest curve is to integrate with former foe Microsoft.

Over the past year, Red Hat has steered RHEL onto Microsoft's Azure cloud platform. RHEL images are available on demand from the Microsoft Azure Marketplace, certified by Red Hat's testing and verification for security and reliability.

"A lot of my clients use Microsoft," said Sander van Vugt, an independent Linux consultant and TechTarget contributor based in the Netherlands. He said he expects more collaboration between what could be considered bitter rivals in the server OS market.

While RHEL 8 is in the architectural and planning phase, Fedora, its open source upstream project, is a likely future direction. Fedora 24 includes improvements to stability due to GNU Compiler Collection 6 underpinnings.

Package dependencies are a problem with current versions of RHEL, complicating stability whenever a user makes a change to their infrastructure and deployment, and van Vugt said he welcomes stability improvements in the next release of RHEL.

If Red Hat released RHEL 8 today, it would comprise "a dependency hell" of 10,000 packages, said Gunnar Hellekson, director of product management for RHEL and RHEV, presenting here at Red Hat Summit.

The Fedora Server OS distribution has a smaller footprint in its latest version, 24, which van Vugt called a smart move to reduce this dependency hell. It also includes a refined domain controller role for systems administrators installing replicas, creating segments and visualizing topology. RHEL 8 aims to offer a minimal install version, on top of which enterprise IT teams can easily layer a curated set of packages, Hellekson said.

The OS also would be able to change in an agile way, to serve both linear traditional apps and distributed apps that update 20 times a day. Nondisruptive updates are a goal, as is the ability to manage RHEL by robots -- for example, Chef, Puppet, Ansible and other configuration management tools.

"More could occur to make RHEL management easier," Hellekson said, both initially and on an ongoing basis. The RHEL roadmap needs to account for robots making changes more often than "fingers on a keyboard."

"RHEL is not complicated," said Michel Ya-Lu, senior systems engineer for ATPCO, an airline tariff publisher based in Dulles, Va. He is in the process of moving mainframe-hosted applications to distributed servers running RHEL and OpenShift, and he said he wants to make the company comfortable with distributed Linux-based applications after a long history on the mainframe.

The RHEL roadmap also aims to more quickly and transparently address software and hardware interoperability -- the goal is to keep the OS from slowing the whole data center down in the name of continued stability.

As Ya-Lu pointed out, the hosting infrastructure can change every three years with Linux servers, unlike a mainframe purchase that's expected to operate for 20 years.

Throughout the stack

RHEL 8 should feel like an incremental improvement to RHEL 7, if the user wants that, Hellekson said, but also enable the IT team to use cloud computing and Linux containers.

Few enterprises manage all their applications deconstructed into microservices tied together with API calls and isolated in containers.

IT shops that run containers and composed applications in production frequently mix these new models with legacy app deployment, containerizing only a few of dozens or hundreds in the full portfolio.

And the RHEL roadmap is far from Red Hat's sole focus. During his keynote here at Red Hat Summit, President and CEO Jim Whitehurst called out mobile and big data, in addition to cloud and containers, as areas for innovation and growth. The company also is making inroads with products to manage application development and deployment above the hosting systems.

Red Hat moved to acquire 3scale, an API management vendor, this month to complement OpenShift and other middleware products, journeying higher up the stack. Red Hat also is working with Microsoft and developer-centric Codenvy to create the open source Language Server Protocol for more intelligent integrated developer environments across programming languages.

In addition, Red Hat made .NET Core, the open source compiler and runtime for Microsoft's .NET platform, available on RHEL and OpenShift via certified Linux containers.

Next Steps

Management improvements in Ceph storage

Inside RHEL 7's containers capabilities

Red Hat launches Ansible Container

Dig Deeper on Linux servers