Red Hat Revs Enterprise Linux To 6.1
June 6, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Commercial Linux distributor Red Hat has announced the first update to its Enterprise Linux 6 operating system.
The RHEL 6.1 update comes six months after the major upgrade to the 6.0 version, and Tim Burke, vice president of Linux engineering, tells me that in addition to the 314 updated packages and 49 new packages that were rolled up in the 6.1 update, the Linux 2.6.32 kernel has been tweaked to support a whole slew of new hardware that is coming down the pike later this year and early next. Burke could not be explicit about what hardware has been added to the list, since these processors have not yet been announced by their makers and their server partners, but I presume that Intel‘s “Sandy Bridge” Xeon E5 processors and maybe its “Poulson” Itaniums are on the list, as are Advanced Micro Devices‘ “Bulldozer” Opteron 4200s and 6200s and IBM‘s Power7+ kickers to the current Power7 chips used in the Power Systems lineup.
One of the neat new features in RHEL 6.1 that has been more fully fleshed out is support for the hot addition of CPUs and memory for servers using Intel’s high-end “Nehalem-EX” Xeon 7500 and “Westmere-EX” Xeon E7 processors. Burke warns that it takes very sophisticated coordination between a system BIOS and the Linux kernel to do hot addition of CPUs and memory, so you can’t just do it with any Xeon server. Check with the manufacturer first.
IBM’s Power 570 and Power 595s had hot add functionality for memory and processors years ago, and the Power 770 and 780 machines had their hot add support come out last November. The Power 795 has similar hot add support built into its firmware as well. I honestly don’t know if RHEL 6.1 supports this functionality or not; the release notes and technical notes are heavily focused on the X64 class of processors, as is Red Hat. The company has pulled the plug in Itanium support with the RHEL 6 releases, but still supports IBM’s Power and System z platforms.
The RHEL 6.1 update has improved support for a number of converged networking adapters and controllers and enhancements in drivers to support iSCSI offload, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), Data Center Bridging, and IPv6 networking. There is support for 40 Gigabit Ethernet and FDR InfiniBand (56Gb/sec) protocols in the 6.1 update as well. The data center bridging technology is very important for converged server-storage networks in that it allows for system administrators to assign a service level to the network bandwidth and latency over Ethernet networks linking out to storage arrays, thus making Ethernet less unpredictable and more like InfiniBand.
The forthcoming PCI Express 3.0 peripheral bus has also been added with this update, and there are also tweaks to the NUMA system lashing algorithms that may have an effect on performance on Power-based systems.