Red Hat Cranks Up Enterprise Linux To 6
November 15, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Last week, commercial Linux distributor Red Hat rolled out its Enterprise Linux version 6 operating system, the first major update of the operating system known colloquially as RHEL since March 2007.
A lot of things in the server and operating system racket have changed in those 44 months between RHEL 5 and RHEL 6, including the advent of several generations of X64, Power, and System z mainframe engines. And, in the case of Red Hat, the plug is being pulled on Intel‘s Itanium processors. That’s right. RHEL 6 runs on Power-based systems and System z mainframes from IBM, but not on Itanium-based servers from Hewlett-Packard, NEC, Bull, Fujitsu, and Unisys. And the reason for that is simple: Of these vendors, only HP is really selling Itanium-based machines.
Think of it as a vote of confidence for the Power7 platform.
Jim Totten, who is general manager and vice president of the platform business unit at Red Hat, said at the RHEL launch event in San Francisco last week that version 6 of the Red Hat commercial Linux was the culmination of more than 600-person years of development by Red Hat software engineers. The software is based on the Linux 2.6.32 with advanced bits and pieces of code pulled backward from the 2.6.33 and 2.6.34 kernels (as is Red Hat’s practice when it creates a stable Linux platform) and woven into the older kernel. Red Hat said that it made 3,900 kernel enhancements in the Linux 2.6.32 kernel, and that a lot of them had to do with virtualization and how it interfaces with non-uniform memory access (NUMA) clustering techniques in modern servers. (Including the Power4 and more recent Power Systems lineup from IBM.) The RHEL stack includes some 2,058 packages, which is 85 percent more components than the prior RHEL 5 version had.
At the moment, the scalability limits for RHEL 6 are not as impressive on Power-based machines as they could be. Regardless of the platform, the Power version of RHEL 6 can support 128 cores or threads and up to 2 TB of main memory. The current Power7 line tops out at 256 cores and 1,024 threads, with a maximum of 8 TB of memory, with the Power 795 server. BM’s own planning documents, which I walked you through back in February ahead of the initial Power 7 launch, called for RHEL 6 to support 64 cores and 128 threads on Power6 machines and 256 cores and 1,024 threads on Power7 machines. Clearly, Red Hat and IBM are still working on this latter bit. Novell‘s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 is supposed to scale across all cores and threads in the Power7 lineup as well, but it is unclear if the company has delivered this support yet. On IBM’s mainframes, System z10 mainframes can support 64 cores and 1.5 TB of memory, while on the new System zEnterprise 196 server, RHEL 6 can span all 80 cores in the machine and up to 3 TB of memory.
RHEL 6 has the integrated ext4 file system, which tops out at 16 TB, but those using X64-based machines can use the GFS2 or XFS file system (which costs extra) to span up to 100 TB of disk capacity.
The pricing for RHEL 6 is complex on X64-based platforms, varying by features and specific job types each edition is aimed at and depending on what add-on modules are bolted onto the core RHEL 6 server. (You can see the full price list here.) Pricing ranges from $349 for every two-sockets in a server for a basic, self-support license for a non-virtualized machine to as high as $3,249 for a premium (24×7) support contract with unlimited virtual machine images based on the KVM or Xen hypervisors on X64 boxes. On Power-based machines, Red Hat is charging $2,700 for every pair of server sockets (regardless of the number of cores on the processor) for a standard 9×5 business hour support contract and $4,300 for a premium contract for every socket pair. If you buy a three-year support contract, Red Hat shaves off 5 percent. On IBM mainframes, RHEL 6 costs exactly the same as RHEL 5: $15,000 per core for standard support and $18,000 per core for premium support.
And you thought IBM i software licenses were crazy. The funny thing is, to a mainframe shop, that price feels like a fire sale compared to z/OS monthly licensing fees.