Linux is an ever-growing technology. The trick to a great Linux distribution is finding the balance between progressive and stable. Linux needs to be brave enough to forge ahead of new technologies but restrained enough that changes don't lead to surprises on production machines.
For 20 years, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) has set the pace for mission-critical stability. Today, it continues to offer a reliable platform with a progressive, forward-looking stack. In fact, RHEL lately feels ahead of its time, with components for edge computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other emerging platforms; cloud computing and cloud storage; a daemonless container engine; the Universal Base Image (UBI) container; hardware support; developer tools; Flatpak for easy user apps; plus the usual delivery of helpful application updates and vital security patches.
And that's just in today's RHEL, so it's hard to imagine what's next (of course, you don't have to imagine because it's open source, and you can follow along with development!).
As the newest release, RHEL 9, arrives, we thought it might be interesting to hear from sysadmins about their experiences with RHEL over the years. Some have been using RHEL since the beginning, others are newer, but each has a unique take on Red Hat's enterprise Linux distribution.
Growing up with RHEL
I was first introduced to RHEL back in 2009. I started my adult phase and my professional career as a technical instructor at a computer school. One of the modules I taught in my course was Linux, and I used whatever distro the school happened to be using. But one of the instructors who taught the same course as me, and who would become a good friend of mine, was also a great enthusiast of the open source world. He started to venture out with other distros, and among them was RHEL.
We were certified in other Linux distros, but he convinced us that this one was different, that Red Hat was a differentiated company, and that being a Red Hat Certified Professional (RHCP) was very worthwhile. So he decided to take the official training for the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) and Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) certifications. He shared everything he learned about RHEL with us. I can still remember the nights we spent learning (or at least trying to) everything from the most basic commands to the most advanced features we could understand at the time.
[ Find out about the new features in RHEL 9. ]
The first release of RHEL that I actually got my hands on was version 4 (Nahant). Next, I started studying some retroactive versions, even Red Hat Linux. I remember like it was yesterday trying to run a simple
yum update and getting a message that my system wasn't registered. Then I thought, "What the heck is that? What is this subscription thing?" I had studied a lot at the time about RPM-based distributions and had used some of them, but RHEL was the first distribution I really enjoyed.
It's been 13 years since the first time I heard about RHEL. Since then, RHEL has evolved, added new functionality important to any large corporation, become a foundation for new converged, cloud, and cutting-edge frameworks, and has increased in use. The system has matured, and I have matured along with it. I can say RHEL is like wine: the older it gets, the better.
RHEL makes it easier
By Seth Kenlon
A few years back, I was a happy Linux user, running Fedora on my laptop, a Raspberry Pi, and anything else I could get my hands on. Fedora has always had a reputation for being an early adopter of new technology, which was important to me because I worked in the film industry, where new video codecs and formats are pretty common. When I got hired as a sysadmin, I knew I needed something I could depend on and something that had a good reputation for adopting new technologies. In other words, I wanted the mythical distribution that was both stable and active enough to forge ahead of everything else.
RHEL has proven to be just that, to the extent that I don't put it on just my servers. It's what my laptop runs. Thanks to Flatpak, I do graphics work, video editing, and even music composition on RHEL.
[ Learn how to install RHEL 9. ]
My first RHEL was RHEL 6, preinstalled on the HP ProLiant rack servers I purchased for the IT department I was running. Since then, I've updated to 7, 8, and now 9 because RHEL has taught me that "stable" doesn't have to mean "archaic" or "outdated." With RHEL, I have a subset of the advancements I see in Fedora, all the modern features I want and my network needs, and I get security patches and software updates. RHEL makes life and work easier, whether it's on my laptop, my servers, or the cloud.
Watching RHEL evolve
Interestingly enough, I was just starting my career at Red Hat, working in Global Support Services, when Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 was released. Before that, the enterprise version of Red Hat Linux was called Red Hat Advanced Server.
This was an interesting time at Red Hat because we transitioned from Red Hat Linux 9 and pivoted to provide enterprise-level support. We rebranded Advanced Server to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This was also when the Fedora Project became the upstream bits for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. We were also pioneering our software subscription model and providing longer maintenance cycles, compared to the six-month release cycle with Red Hat Linux.
If I remember correctly, my first exposure to Red Hat Linux was the 6.1 (Cartman) release. Once I joined Red Hat and started supporting the product back in 2003, I achieved my Red Hat Certified Engineer certification and helped our customers with everything from Apache configuration to Red Hat Network registration. I'm running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 on my laptop and have used Linux as my primary desktop for more than 20 years.
So, what's next for RHEL? As the industry continues to embrace open source cloud solutions, Red Hat is committed to ensuring that end users of RHEL have the best possible experience. We expect all the basic functions of Linux with the benefits of an OS built bespoke for the modern business environment. Wrap that up in continuous patching and support, and you've got a great foundation for your Linux needs. If you are interested in learning more, download RHEL 9 for free through the Red Hat Developer program.