We’ve released the Beta of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 (kernel-2.6.18-120.el5), including versions for x86, x86/64, Itanium, IBM POWER and System z. The Beta runs until January 6, 2009. We’ll highlight a few of the more interesting new features and updates below, but for full details, see the official announcement.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 Beta is the sheer size and scope of enhancements, which cover every aspect of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux environment. The enhancements clearly illustrate the power of the open source development model to create new technology with breathtaking speed. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 will be provided to all subscribers for no additional charge, as part of their subscription service.

As with any Beta, the aim is to provide our customers and partners with the opportunity to sample and test new features of the release before it is finalized. So, bear in mind that things are still open to change before the final GA (General Availability) release. Also, the software should not be used for production environments or for performance testing. An important feature of any Red Hat Enterprise Linux update is that kernel and user APIs are unchanged, so that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 applications do not need to be rebuilt or recertified.

The list of new features and bug fixes for the beta is long, so for full details please refer to the official announcement document. Here is a brief summary:

  • Virtualization enhancements. Of the many virtualization enhancements, the more important include:
  • Support for larger x86-64 systems: 126 CPUS, 1TB physical memory, more guests and more devices per guest.
  • Intel Extended Page Table (EPT) support. With this feature virtual memory page tables translate from linear addresses to guest-physical addresses. A separate set of page tables (the EPT tables) then translate from guest-physical addresses to the host-physical addresses that are used to access memory. This means that guest software is free to modify its own page tables and so directly handle page faults. The result is that the virtual memory management software is a lot more efficient, so that dramatic performance improvements are possible.
  • Support for more than four NICs
  • Xen paravirtualized drivers are included for fully-virtualized (FV) Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 guest kernels, so they don’t need to be downloaded separately as previously necessary.
Cluster Improvements (note that clustering is included in Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform).
  • The big news here is that GFS2, which was previously in Technology Preview, is expected to be fully supported in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3. Also, Cluster-wide mirroring (RAID-1) is now supported. This dramatically improves the availability of shared storage environments, so will be valued by customers who are deploying virtualized environments and using live migration.
Desktop Enhancements
  • NetworkManager has been enhanced in a number of areas, to offer support for a number of mobile broadband devices, static IP address assignment and to allow networking to start prior to login. Additionally, users will appreciate much faster connection times and connection sharing/multiple active connections.
    A number of graphics drivers have been updated.
General Improvements
  • Many kernel, device driver and architectural improvements have been implemented. The offical Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 Beta announcement documents over 150 additions and updates. As mentioned earlier, these enhancements cover every aspect of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux environment.

As usual, with Red Hat Enterprise Linux Betas and full releases, some technologies are provided that, while not formally supported at this time, are appropriate for wide exposure. These are offered as “Technology Preview” features. Once again, refer to the official Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 Beta announcement for a full list of features, but some of the more intriguing include:

  • AIGLX including X server and updated Mesa package
  • Limited kernel-based eCryptFS capabilities
  • Ext4/e4fsprogs: the successor file system to ext3
  • Firewire
  • GCC 4.3 compiler, with OpenMP3 conformance
  • Additinal Indic languages: Assamese, Kannada, Sinhalese, Telugu
  • iSCSI boot support
  • Kerberos security and kernel DFS support for CIFS
  • Ktune: a service that sets several kernel tuning parameters to values suitable for specific system profiles
    Support for 32-bit para-virtualized (PV) guests on 64-bit AMD64/Intel(r) 64 hosts
  • Systemtap utrace support for user space tracing
  • VMWare ESX cluster fence agent, allowing Red Hat Enterprise Linux VMware guests to be clustered

Additional information is provided in the Release Notes, which are available on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 site.

Getting involved
We maintain a public mailing list for communication during Beta. You are welcome to subscribe to these lists and keep up-to-date with latest developments.

Announcements for Red Hat Enterprise Linux are posted to rhelv5-announce.

Public discussions on the Beta occur on rhelv5-beta-list.

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