Enterprise Linux vendor Red Hat is now providing its users with an optional way to run newer versions of software applications on its stable operating system platform. The new Red Hat Software Collections and Red Hat Developer Toolset 1.0 releases provide updated versions of applications for users of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 operating system.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 (RHEL 6), first launched in November 2010, has been updated with three milestone releases since. The most recent update is the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.4 release that debuted in February and provides improved Microsoft Active Directory integration.
While the milestone RHEL releases provide incremental feature updates, in the interest of enterprise stability, Red Hat typically does not advance the version numbers for some existing applications and programming languages. The idea is that enterprises are paying for RHEL in order to have stability, which is not something that new iterations of software always provide. That being the case, there is also a need for some users to have more recent versions of software than what RHEL 6 provides, and that's where the Software Collections and Developer Toolset releases come in.
The Red Hat Software Collections 1.0 release provides newer versions for a long list of software. That list includes new open-source databases such as MySQL 5.5, MariaDB 5.5 and PostgreSQL 9.2. On the programming language side, new versions include Python 3.3 and PHP 5.4.
While the updated versions in the Software Collections are newer than what RHEL 6 is currently providing to users, in some cases, they are still not the latest versions that are publicly available. One such example is with PHP, where the Software Collections include version 5.4, though the most recent version, 5.5, became publicly available in June.
"For a language/database to be included in Red Hat Software Collections, it must be deemed stable enough for everyday production usage," Mike Guerette, manager, Red Hat Enterprise Linux Developer Relations, told eWEEK. "At the time of Red Hat Software Collections 1.0’s development, PHP 5.5 was simply not stable enough for inclusion."
The same explanation also holds true for the open-source MySQL database, which is currently at its 5.6 release, which publicly debuted in February. Red Hat Software Collections 1.0 only includes the MySQL 5.5 release.
"During development of Red Hat Software Collections 1.0, MySQL 5.6 was very unstable during our testing; as such, we included the latest, stable version 5.5," Guerette said. "In terms of what stability means in the context of Red Hat Software Collections, a dynamic language or database is considered stable when our engineering team is able to support it without having to update it too frequently for production environments."
The Red Hat Developer Toolset is a separate, though related, effort from the Software Collections effort. The developer toolset provides updated developer tools, including Eclipse 4.3 as well as the GNU Complier Collection (GCC) 4.8 release.
Guerette explained that the Developer Toolset and the Red Hat Software Collections each aim to fulfill a different need. The Developer Toolset is for C/C++/Fortran developers who compile on a single system (developer platform) and deploy on production systems. In contrast, Red Hat Software Collections is for Web developers who need runtime packages on their production systems, too.
Since RHEL is open-source software, users can just go out to the various project Websites for the newer software releases to update on their own. The Red Hat approach, Guerette said, is somewhat different and more stable for enterprise users.
"Red Hat Software Collections contain the latest, stable runtime components, which means that they have been extensively tested by Red Hat and are backed by Red Hat support," Guerette said. "To put it another way, these components come with all the value of Red Hat Enterprise Linux but with an accelerated release cycle; essentially, you can gain the benefit of community innovation without the inherent production risk that the cutting-edge projects sometimes have."
As an added bonus for existing RHEL customers, there’s no additional charge for Red Hat Software Collections, Guerette said, adding that it's simply an option for existing subscription customers. Red Hat offers its software on a subscription basis.
"In terms of major updates, we are looking at rollouts every 18 months, with potentially minor releases coming every nine months," Guerette said. "New components will likely be added in version 1.1."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.