Red Hat Reimagines Enterprise Linux for the AI Future with Image Mode for Red Hat Enterprise Linux

New deployment option for the world’s leading enterprise Linux platform makes containers the language of the operating system, providing a single container-native workflow that spans both development and operations teams across the hybrid cloud


Red Hat, Inc., the world's leading provider of open source solutions, today introduced image mode for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, a new deployment method for Red Hat Enterprise Linux that delivers the platform as a container image. Image mode takes a container-native approach to building, deploying and managing the operating system, providing a single workflow to manage the entirety of an IT landscape, from the applications to the underlying operating system, with the same tools and techniques.


By delivering the world’s leading enterprise Linux platform in a container format, we’re providing an operating system that can match the speed, efficiency and innovation of the AI era, backed by the consistency and trust that CIOs have come to expect from Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Gunnar Hellekson

Vice President and General Manager, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat

Evolving the standard operating environment

For many organizations, a standard operating environment (SOE) or “gold image” based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux forms the foundation of their respective technology strategies. These images power the hybrid cloud from the datacenter to public clouds to the edge but often need to be customized to meet unique business and environmental needs.

Being able to effectively address the rigors of hybrid cloud computing remains critical, as "Gartner®noted that through 20271, 50% of enterprise workloads will reside outside of centralized public cloud locations”. Combined with the rise of AI workloads that require greater speed and flexibility, the operating system needs to respond by becoming more adaptable, more scalable and more responsive. To answer this, Red Hat is bringing the innovations powering modern application development practices, and containers, to the heart of the operating system.

Containers for IT’s “last mile”

Image mode for Red Hat Enterprise Linux builds on the success of open source projects such as bootc to create a deployment model that fits seamlessly into container-native workflows. Image mode enables the operating system to use the same tools, skills and patterns as containerized applications, letting operations and infrastructure teams speak the same dialect as developers.

Linux already sits at the core of containers, but image mode takes Linux’s role a step further by making it possible to manage the entire operating system through container-based tooling and concepts, including GitOps and continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD). This streamlined approach helps address challenges in managing Linux at scale, from pushing patches to disparate locations to disconnects between operations teams and the application development cycle.

With image mode for Red Hat Enterprise Linux:

  • All Red Hat Enterprise Linux users can benefit from greater simplification and portability across all of their environments that span the hybrid cloud.
  • DevOps teams can more easily plug Red Hat Enterprise Linux into their CI/CD and GitOps workflows, easing the friction that exists between the platform and the application.
  • Security teams can apply container security tools, from scanning and validation to cryptography and attestation to the base elements of the operating system, making their jobs far less complex.
  • Solution providers can more easily build, test, and distribute Red Hat Enterprise Linux-based applications.

The operating system built for AI

Nearly every organization is planning for a future structured around AI workloads or, at the very least, applications infused with some level of AI capabilities. Image mode for Red Hat Enterprise Linux supports the need to move more quickly when it comes to building, testing, and deploying AI applications, both through its flexible nature and its tight integration with Podman AI Lab.

Developers can readily build intelligent applications using Podman AI Lab on their laptop through a process that’s greatly simplified by AI Lab’s recipe catalog and straightforward AI playground environment. They can then use the bootc extension for Podman Desktop to readily convert to containers, bootable images or even bare-metal installers, all running on the proven, trusted and consistent backbone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Additionally, Red Hat Insights now offers additional management features in support of image mode’s immutability. Operations teams can now view the deployment of operating system images across their infrastructure, while administrators are now able to update image mode systems directly from Red Hat Insights. In the future, image maintainers will also be able to better harden their images. 

The cloud is hybrid. So is AI.

For more than 30 years, open source technologies have paired rapid innovation with greatly reduced IT costs and lowered barriers to innovation. Red Hat has been leading this charge for nearly as long, from delivering open enterprise Linux platforms with RHEL in the early 2000s to driving containers and Kubernetes as the foundation for open hybrid cloud and cloud-native computing with Red Hat OpenShift.

This drive continues with Red Hat powering AI/ML strategies across the open hybrid cloud, enabling AI workloads to run where data lives, whether in the datacenter, multiple public clouds or at the edge. More than just the workloads, Red Hat’s vision for AI brings model training and tuning down this same path to better address limitations around data sovereignty, compliance and operational integrity.  The consistency delivered by Red Hat’s platforms across these environments, no matter where they run, is crucial in keeping AI innovation flowing.

The AI-ready Linux is here now

Image mode for Red Hat Enterprise Linux is now available as a Technology Preview via Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9.4. Red Hat customers can access the new deployment model through the customer portal, while any user can gain access through a no-cost Red Hat Developer subscription.

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Supporting Quotes

Gunnar Hellekson, vice president and general manager, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat

“The era of the AI-defined organization requires us to reassess all technologies across the enterprise, not just those directly impacted by intelligent applications and workloads. By delivering the world’s leading enterprise Linux platform in a container format, we’re providing an operating system that can match the speed, efficiency and innovation of the AI era, backed by the consistency and trust that CIOs have come to expect from Red Hat Enterprise Linux.”

Jorge Castro, developer relations, Cloud Native Computing Foundation / co-maintainer, Universal Blue and Project Bluefin

“The future of Linux clients is cloud-native, starting with communities like Universal Blue, a project creating custom Fedora bootc containers, which provide users with more flexibility and customization in terms of the specific software that they run on their desktop. We're incredibly pleased to see these container-based concepts adapted by Red Hat to image mode for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, bringing this same level of adaptability and reliability to enterprise computing workloads.”

Matt Hartley, Linux support lead, Framework Computer

“The bootc project and Image mode for Red Hat Enterprise Linux have incredible potential to increase system reliability and decrease system administration toil. With bootc images, it’s simpler to version and tag builds targeting specific hardware. Not just the operating system, but all the tweaks and extras you want to include for a curated, well-tested experience. I have long thought that the future of Linux is image based, and now it’s starting to feel like we’re here.”

Additional Resources

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    1 Gartner Press Release, “Gartner Says 50% of Critical Enterprise Applications Will Reside Outside of Centralized Public Cloud Locations Through 2027,” October 30, 2023. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.