We are excited to share with you news of our first public step toward our next major Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform release with today’s Beta availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6. Beginning today, we are inviting our customers, partners and members of the public to install, test and provide feedback for what we expect will be one of our most ambitious and important operating platform releases to date. This blog is the first in a series of upcoming posts that will cover different aspects of the new platform.

It has been almost eight years since the first release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Since then, the product has established itself as one of the leading enterprise-caliber, open source operating systems. With installed systems in use from laptops to mainframes, it has helped set standards for quality, certified infrastructure, long-haul stability, performance and security. From Main Street to Wall Street, Red Hat Enterprise Linux touches almost every industry.

As Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 enters Beta today, the currently supported release, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, continues to be the cornerstone of Red Hat’s software product portfolio. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 was first released in March 2007, and has received regular updates since that time. Just last month, we delivered the fifth update to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 platform with new features and hardware support. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 platform will continue to be supported by Red Hat and its ISV and OEM partners until 2014.

Looking to the future, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 blurs the lines between virtual, physical and cloud computing to address shifts taking place in the modern IT environment. Featuring updated core technology, from the kernel to the application infrastructure to the development toolchain, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 is designed to meet the needs of the coming generations of hardware and software technologies.

The major themes of the release include pervasive virtualization, improved scalability and availability, increased power efficiency, and delivery of some of the latest software technologies. In line with today’s Beta availability, we’ll briefly highlight a few of the new and noteworthy improvements:

  • Comprehensive power management capabilities
    Time-keeping improvements within the kernel allow the system to transition processors that do not have active tasks into the idle state more frequently. This leads to cooler CPUs and greater power savings compared to previous releases. New monitoring tools like powertop are designed to help pin-point power consumption issues that can be resolved in order to further reduce power consumption. New tuning tools like "tuned," which is an adaptive system tuning daemon, allow the system to adjust power consumption based on analysis of service usage patterns.
  • Performance enhancements
    Red Hat engineers have played key roles in the upstream development of a wide range of kernel performance enhancements that we plan to feature in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6. This includes a complete rewrite of the process scheduler so that it more fairly shares compute cycles among processes and provides more determinism by enabling higher-priority processes to run with minimal interference from lower-priority processes. Additionally, there are a substantial range of multi-processor lock synchronization enhancements. For example, elimination of unnecessary locking occurrences, replacement of many spin locks with sleep locks and implementation of more efficient locking primitives. These foundational changes impact a number of kernel subsystems.
  • Scalability enhancements
    Recent hardware launches have resulted in significant growth in commodity computing platforms. For example it is now possible to have 64 CPUs and 2TB of memory in a 5U rackmount form factor. These systems and their successors are approaching the scalability limits of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5. A primary feature of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 is that it is designed to provide the scalability to handle systems well into the future. Capabilities range from optimized support for large CPU counts and memory configurations to the ability to handle an increased number of system-interconnect buses and peripherals. These capabilities are appropriate for both bare metal and virtualized environments as virtualization becomes as pervasive as bare metal deployments.
  • New security features
    A new service called the System Security Services Daemon (SSSD) provides central management of identities. It also has the ability to cache credentials for offline use. The new SELinux sandbox feature allows execution of untrusted content in an isolated environment designed not to impact the rest of the system. This includes the ability to isolate any virtualized guest running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.
  • Resource management
    Fine-grained control, allocation and management of hardware resources is available with the help of a new framework called Control Groups or cgroups. cgroups work at the process group level and can be used to manage resources ranging from CPU, memory, network and disk I/O for applications. This framework is also used to manage virtual guests.
  • Virtualization
    Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 builds on the integrated KVM-based virtualization provided by earlier Red Hat Enterprise Linux releases. Incorporating numerous performance, scheduler and hardware support enhancements, it offers improved flexibility and control regardless of the deployment model.
  • Storage
    Support for network block storage via FCoE and iSCSI protocols make it possible to perform online re-size of mirrored and multipath volumes using LVM/DM.
  • File system
    This release includes the ext4 file system. As the next generation of the extended filesystem family, it includes support for larger file sizes, more efficient allocation of disk space, better file system checking and more robust journaling. In addition to ext4, the XFS® filesystem is also expected to be available. XFS® is well suited for extremely large file and directory sizes and includes features such as the ability to defragment and re-size the filesystem while active. NFS has been updated to version 4, which includes support for IPv6.
  • Reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS)
    This release leverages new hardware capabilities to offer features such as hot-add of devices and memory, and enhanced error checking for PCIe devices via AER. It also is expected to include advanced data integrity features (DIF/DIX) that validate data from application to platter via hardware checksums. The introduction of ABRT (Automated Bug Reporting Tool) provides a more consistent way to identify and report system exception conditions like kernel failures (kernel oops) and userspace application crashes.
  • Compiler and tools
    The GCC compiler has been updated to version 4.4. This version complies with the C++ 0x standard draft. It also conforms to OpenMP 3.0 and includes many debugging capabilities. SystemTap improvements include better support for user-space probing, a more secure script-compile server and a new unprivileged mode that allows non-root users to access SystemTap. Additionally, there are many other libraries that have been updated to the latest versions, as well as additional languages and runtime environments, including the complete LAMP stack and OpenJDK.
  • Desktop
    This release introduces automatic detection of display types and support for multiple displays. We have also included updated nouveau drivers to support NVIDIA graphics devices. Of course, no release would be complete without significant updates to the GNOME and KDE desktops.

The portfolio of technologies in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 will be offered along with expanded support for key hardware platforms, which we believe makes the release a compelling choice for new and existing customers alike. As always, part of the value of the subscription lies within our enterprise certifications. Currently, thousands applications are certified to run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, whether it’s on "bare metal," virtualized or within cloud deployments. This makes Red Hat Enterprise Linux an operating system of choice for customers and partners.

If you are interested in trying the Beta, we encourage you to download and install it and share your feedback with us. Please visit here to access the Beta.

In keeping with Red Hat’s open source roots, we would like to recognize and thank our many partners and upstream community members who have been working closely with us for many months to make this release truly ground-breaking.