Red Hat Delivers RHEL 5 Beta 2, Pushes Announcement to Early 2007
Published: November 28, 2006
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Commercial Linux distributor Red Hat put out the second beta release of its upcoming Enterprise Linux 5 version on November 17, a business day earlier than expected and after we went to press with the prior issue. With this beta, Red Hat has fully integrated its implementation of the open source Xen hypervisor and the Red Hat Cluster Suite of high availability clustering software. The software is now expected to be generally available in early 2007, not late 2006.
RHEL 5 has been in development for almost two years, and encompasses changes to the Linux kernel from version 2.6.9 to 2.6.18. It includes a lot of changes, but the big one if the integrated Xen support, which rival Novell launched in its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 this summer.
The first beta of RHEL 5 was released on September 8, and according to Nick Carr, director of marketing for Enterprise Linux at Red Hat, the company is in no hurry to rush RHEL 5 out the door since the launch of the product is not a "revenue event" for the company. By that, he means that customers who have active subscriptions for RHEL 3 or RHEL 4 get the new version for free when it becomes available. This distinction between an open source product, such as RHEL 5, and a closed source product, such as Longhorn Server or Windows Vista from Microsoft, is important. Many people had been expecting the commercial release of RHEL 5 before the end of the year, mainly because that is when Red Hat was estimating it would come to market earlier this year. Now, Carr says that the schedule for RHEL 5 puts Release Candidate 1 in the middle to the end of January 2007. The final release of RHEL 5 is expected approximately four to six weeks after that. There are not, at this time, plans for a Beta 3 or Release Candidate 2 releases of RHEL 5, according to Carr.
Red Hat has no idea how many people have been playing around with RHEL 5 Beta 1, since it is distributed on so many mirrors around the Internet. But Joel Berman, product development manager for RHEL, says that "a lot of people used it, and a lot of bugs came in." He estimates that between 700 and 800 fixes came in from internal Red Hat employees, those working on the Fedora project, as well as from outside users. Many of these are small issues, like spelling errors in screens, and many bug fix requests are duplicates, so it is hard to estimate how many actual problems were found in the code without sifting through that long list. The important points are that there are only three open issues with RHEL 5 Beta 2 and that no new functionality will be added to the software from this point on.
"The problem is not fixing the bugs, but making sure that the bug fix doesn't cause problems with other pieces of software in the stack" explains Carr. With Release Candidate 1, Red Hat will be working on adding substantial amounts of documentation for the code.
One new feature Red Hat has not discussed in the past that will come out with RHEL 5 and which is in Beta 2 is called the SE Troubleshooter. This feature is a response to criticisms from the Linux community that the SE Linux security enhancements that Red Hat has created for its Linux distro are too hard to implement and manage. The troubleshooter is driver by a graphical user interface, and it can be configured to pop up and warn Linux admins when a security event is happening and suggest courses of action. SE Linux has also been extended to all services in the operating system; with RHEL 4, SE Linux only covered eleven services managed by Linux. RHEL 5 will also implement multi-level security, which a number of hardened Unix platforms have and which military contractors and governments are keen on.
RHEL 5 Beta 2 will also include system management tools that better show admins the resources that they commit to physical and virtual servers. "One of the things that you learn about when you do virtualization is that people have no idea what resources their applications are actually using on physical machines," says Bernam. "I am hoping that with virtualization, customers will finally understand what resources they are consuming and how to tune their code." SystemTAP and Frysk, which are included with RHEL 5, are two system monitoring tools that that will play into that tuning.
Red Hat is still not talking about what it will charge for RHEL 5, but Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 is certainly keeping the pricing pressure on, with a list price of $349 on a machine that spans up to 32 processor sockets and a $250 or so street price. It will be interesting to see what Red Hat does for base server license pricing and if it charges for virtualized instances, and the company seemed to be hinting it might earlier this year when it first started talking about RHEL 5. The movement in the market is in the direction of not charging for virtualized servers or charging after a certain number of virtualized instances are installed.
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