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If you’ve spent time in IT operations, you know that IT life cycle planning can be complicated. Lack of visibility into vendor roadmaps can make it almost impossible to understand when new releases and features will be available. Additionally, short software life cycles require more frequent updates, testing, and recertification. Compounding all of this, upgrading to new versions of foundational software like operating systems and container platforms can be a major project for your entire team.
Even so, there are still many good reasons to keep your infrastructure software updated. New operating system features can often take advantage of advanced hardware capabilities that already exist in your datacenter. Security patches fix potential vulnerabilities and help protect your sensitive applications and data. Performance enhancements can improve compute resource utilization and help control costs across your entire hybrid cloud environment.
As a foundational layer of your IT infrastructure, operating system life cycle planning is especially important–end-of-maintenance dates, upgrade options, and software compatibility can significantly impact your IT operations and business. To help you plan for change on your own schedule, Red Hat Enterprise Linux offers multiple flexible, enterprise-focused life cycle options that let you plan and upgrade with confidence.
Gain visibility into your operating system life cycle
Major releases of Red Hat Enterprise Linux have a 10-year life cycle, giving you the opportunity to standardize on a major release for over a decade.
During the first 5 years, Red Hat provides full support, including bug fixes, security patches, software enhancements, hardware enablement, and backports. These updates are called errata advisories and are released every 6 months in a minor release, or individually on an as-needed basis.
For the next 5 years, Red Hat provides maintenance support with Red Hat-defined Critical and Important Impact Security Advisories (RHSAs) and selected Urgent Priority Bug Fix Advisories (RHBAs) released on an as-needed basis. And for organizations that need to remain on a major release for more than 10 years, Red Hat offers the Extended Life Cycle Support (ELS) Add-on to extend the viability of a given major release beyond the standard life cycle.
Sometimes you might discover that you need to limit disruptions and remain on a minor release for longer than 6 months. With the Extended Update Support (EUS) and Enhanced Extended Update Support Add-ons for select minor releases, you can extend support—including bug fixes and security patches—for up to 4 years after the initial minor release date.
Red Hat launches a new major release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux every 3 years. Because major releases are updated every 6 months via a minor release for the first 5 years, 2 major releases are often updated at the same time. This release cadence gives you more choice and flexibility when planning your operating system life cycle. For example, if you standardize on a major release for the full 10-year life cycle, you can potentially skip 2 major versions when upgrading to the next major release. On the other extreme, you can upgrade your major release as often as every 3 years to take advantage of new features and capabilities right away. And of course, Red Hat Enterprise Linux roadmaps are published well in advance to help you make the best choices for your organization.
Limit disruptions with binary compatibility
For many IT organizations, changing their Linux kernel version requires application recertifications and process changes, which are often time-consuming and disruptive. To help limit the impact of upgrades, Red Hat maintains the same kernel version throughout the life cycle of each major release. All minor releases contain the same kernel version as the associated major release, so you can upgrade with confidence. Red Hat also makes commercially reasonable efforts to maintain user space binary compatibility within Red Hat Enterprise Linux major releases and publishes application compatibility guides to help you plan ahead.
At the same time, the Linux community continues to add new, exciting features to the kernel. Red Hat backports a selection of these features into the existing, stable Red Hat Enterprise Linux kernel. As a result, you can continue to run the same kernel version while accessing features from newer kernel versions–all without needing to retest or recertify your applications and hardware.
Update business-critical technologies
Red Hat Enterprise Linux distributions contain a curated selection of technologies and tools that business-critical applications and services rely on. With Application Streams, you can update these components separately from the core operating system and run multiple versions simultaneously. This allows your developers to access the latest stable versions, while maintaining support for production applications and teams that require older releases. Because Application Streams are maintained and supported for a defined life cycle via a security-focused software supply chain approach, you can use these technologies with confidence and plan upgrades based on your schedule and needs.
Upgrade simply and easily
When you’re ready to move to a new major release, Red Hat is here to help. In-place upgrade tools and detailed guidance help you update to newer versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and migrate your applications smoothly and easily.
Additionally, you can take advantage of Red Hat Consulting services to speed up your upgrade projects. Red Hat experts work with your organization to develop the practices, tools, and culture needed to accelerate the Red Hat Enterprise Linux migration process. They help you identify key applications, services, and tools; create automated workflows; and reduce risk for critical workloads.
Plan with choice and flexibility
With Red Hat Enterprise Linux, you have the flexibility to choose from multiple supported versions and adopt new features as you need them. With up to 10 years of active maintenance for major releases—and up to 4 years for minor releases—you can be confident in your infrastructure strategy and plan for change on your own schedule.
Learn more about the Red Hat Enterprise Linux life cycle at access.redhat.com/support/policy/updates/errata.
About the author
Gil Cattelain is Principal Product Marketing Manager for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Cattelain has more than 20 years’ experience as a leader in high-tech software product marketing with a proven track record of managing major product releases and go-to-market strategies. Prior to Red Hat, Cattelain held product marketing leadership roles at Micro Focus, Novell, and Genesys, focusing on the endpoint management and DevOps/agile solutions, including digital marketing for the contact center market.