Innovation Without Disruption: Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 Now Available

September 2, 2009

by RHEL5 Team

Today marks the release of the fourth update in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 family. As you would expect, the press release and our technical overview highlight what is new in this update. The advancements in virtualization technology, I/O performance and system tools are worth talking about and, at the risk of being redundant, we’ll certainly cover some of them here. However, we’re going to start with what is not new and why this release, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4, fits into the way our customers manage their technology portfolio.

One item that is not new is the consistency of the ABI/API. As with all updates, the enhancements are incremental and non-disruptive to legacy hardware and all applications. Our process is designed to allow applications that ran on 5.3 to continue to run on 5.4 without modification. And, when it is time to release update 5.5, those same applications won’t be affected. This nexus of compatibility, consistency and support across a Red Hat Enterprise Linux major release contributes to a stable, long-lived platform with the potential to span multiple generations of system hardware for our customers. For ISVs, developers and production administrators, their application reliability is expected to increase as we consolidate the security alerts, fixes and enhancements to the underlying operating environment. This is one of the reasons why the number of applications developed and certified on Red Hat Enterprise Linux is expected to continue to grow.

Every customer receives this update without fee. A Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscriber has access to all the current releases of our operating platform. For some who may still be running a Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 platform, the new virtualization technology or enhanced filesystem support may be their compelling reason to upgrade now. This release will be immediately available via Red Hat Network to be accessed when our customers need it. Since we do not tie our relationship with our customers to a particular release, when to upgrade is within our customers’ control. That hasn’t changed with this update.

Our engineering partnership with the system hardware providers remains strong. Many of our updates include incremental updates to support the latest features, or to optimize the performance of the underlying hardware. This one is no different. For example, customers who deploy on the 5.4 release will be able to take advantage of the advances in 10Gb Ethernet network interfaces. Generic Receive Offload (GRO) balances the processing of packets between the specialized NIC and the operating system to maximize performance and scalability.

We remain committed to open source development and supporting standards. When Red Hat places a technology into commercial release, we expect it to be stable and supported across generations of the operating system and the hardware. We participate in standards bodies and advocate for long-term solutions, not quick fixes that will require future patching. With this release we have added commercial support for technologies such as FCoE (Fiber Channel over Ethernet) for storage environments and SR-IOV to improve virtual I/O performance and management. We also continue to enhance our management interfaces, such as OpenIPMI, OpenHPI and libvirt. These open interfaces aim to improve the portability and functionality of third-party and our own management tools.

Of course, we’ve also enhanced the Red Hat Enterprise Linux developer environment, system tools and core technology. For example, new versions of SystemTap and blktrace allow performance diagnosis of a running applications and the application interaction with key subsystems such as networking, memory and storage.

For those technologies that are becoming mature, but which we deem not quite ready for commercial support, we designate Technology Preview. Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscribers can test and evaluate future features. In this update, we included the next generation of developer features and tools including GCC 4.4 and a new malloc(). We’ve also included clustered, high-availability filesystem to support Microsoft Windows(TM) storage needs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Finally, we’ll highlight the announcement of what’s absolutely new. The inclusion of kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) virtualization technology in this release, alongside of Xen virtualization technology, makes Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 the foundation for the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization portfolio of solutions that we first announced back in February of this year. In many ways, the introduction of commercial support for KVM, the next generation of virtualization technology, highlights what does not change in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 family, which included virtualization from the start.

Because KVM is integrated into the Linux kernel, it takes full advantage of the operating environment. This includes hardware and application support. Hardware and software certified on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 should be transparently certified for virtual guests as well. System tools, including management, SELinux security and Red Hat Network all work in both physical, virtual, host and guest deployments.

Because this is an update in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 family, Xen and KVM can both be managed via the open standard libvirt. This provides customers with their choice of virtualization technology with a common management interface. In addition, support of Xen has not ceased – it will continue to be supported through the full lifecycle of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5. The scalability of the Red Hat virtualization solution has been incremented to support 192 CPUs and 1GB hugepages.

With the close cooperation of our hardware partners and the industry standard bodies, KVM takes full advantage of the latest in chip hardware advances. Performance, scalability, security and stability are enhanced by the tight linkage to Intel VT and AMD-V hardware virtualization. By following the PCI-SIG’s SR-IOV specification and delivered on AMD and Intel chipsets, virtual device enables the efficient and secure sharing of physical devices in both KVM and Xen virtualization.

As we consider the exciting news of what is new in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4, it is good to know that many of the most important attributes of Red Hat Enterprise Linux remain unchanged. Our commitment is to provide our customers with the tools, technology and confidence to embrace innovation and minimize disruption.

For more information about Red Hat Enterprise Linux, visit here.

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