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Today Red Hat released the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 Beta (kernel-2.6.18-155.el5), with versions for x86, x86/64, Itanium, IBM POWER and System z. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 Beta release includes a variety of new features and capabilities, combined with enhancements in virtualization, storage/filesystem, security and developer tools. As with any Beta, our goal is to provide customers and partners with the opportunity to sample and test new features of the release before it’s finalized.

The most exciting new capability in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 Beta is the incorporation of KVM-based virtualization, in addition to existing Xen-based virtualization. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 provides the first commercial-strength implementation of KVM, which is developed as part of the upstream Linux kernel. Xen-based virtualization, of course, remains fully supported for the life of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 family. In addition to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 Beta release today, last week Red Hat also announced the availability of the Beta release of the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization portfolio, which includes Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Servers, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Desktops and the standalone, KVM-based Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Hypervisor.

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 re-certified. This situation extends to virtualized environments: with a fully integrated hypervisor, the application binary interface (ABI) consistency offered by Red Hat Enterprise Linux means that applications certified to run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux on physical machines are also certified when run in virtual machines. So the portfolio of thousands of certified applications for Red Hat Enterprise Linux applies to both environments.

While KVM virtualization is a major theme for this Beta release, customers will also benefit from advances in performance, security and developer tools to benefit both virtual and physical environments.

For full details on the new features in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 Beta release, please see the release notes. Here are some additional highlights:

Virtualization enhancements.

  • KVM hypervisor
  • Hardware support (SRIOV, IOMMU, VT-d):
    With this release Red Hat is introducing support for SRIOV (Single Root I/O for Virtualization). This feature aims to improve transaction throughput performance in virtual environments by taking advantage of PCI cards that can be shared by multiple virtual machines at one time without creating a throughput bottleneck. These throughput improvements combine with previous CPU and memory performance enhancements to allow customers to further consolidate workloads to lower their costs. SRIOV works with either IOMMU or VT-d in AMD and Intel platforms respectively.
  • VDI SPICE protocol enablers:
    This software, unique to Red Hat, offers better response times for graphic/screen rendering by adaptively taking advantage of either client or host capabilities. This leads to better CPU utilization, enabling improved VDI consolidation ratios, without the need for expensive special hardware.
  • Libvirt:
    perl interface for libvirt (new)
  • kernel:
    Improved clock management when Red Hat Enterprise Linux is deployed on a VMware platform.

Storage / FileSystem

  • New Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) utilities for management of FC instances on Ethernet
  • Clustered Samba (Technology Preview)


  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 is a FIPS-140 certification target


  • Kernel tracepoints (Technology Preview), coupled with tracepoint support in SystemTap. This release provides user-space backtrace support, complementing kernel-space backtracing that was provided in previous releases. SystemTap provides a powerful, comprehensive performance troubleshooting tool.
  • New CIM support for DHCP services.

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.

All subscribing Red Hat customers can download the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 beta via Red Hat Network today.

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