On Tuesday, March 11, Red Hat released the Beta version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2. The Beta is expected to last approximately two months, with the final, supported update appearing soon after. During the Beta, Red Hat’s QA group, partners and customers will put the update through extensive testing for hardware support, feature enhancements and correct application operation to ensure that the final update is as solid as possible.

It is worth noting that although the Linux kernel is still 2.6-based, the number of enhancements between 2.6.0 and 2.6.24 (the latest version) are probably as extensive as between previous major releases, such as 2.2 to 2.4 or 2.4 to 2.6. This is because the 2.6 incremental development model is working very well, so that enhancements get merged upstream in manageable amounts. Who knows, perhaps the days of the "big new kernel release" are behind us, something that is a credit to the quality of the Linux kernel and the open source development model.

Meanwhile, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 releases, which are designed to maintain stable user and core kernel APIs/ABIs, are consistent in their use of the 2.6.24 kernel. However, under the Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription model, Red Hat engineers backport many of the new features from later kernels to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 kernel, such as support for new hardware and virtualization enhancements. This provides Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscribers with important new capabilities while maintaining stable application interfaces - so that applications continue to run after new updates are installed. And, of course, it’s always worth repeating that updates, which are released about twice a year, are included with every Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription.

This combination of application stability and new capabilities is one of the primary benefits of the Red Hat subscription model, and is valued by customers and ISVs alike.