Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.8 officially enters its beta stage today, providing users of Red Hat's Linux platform with new features, some of which had already debuted in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.2 in November 2015.
While the RHEL 7 product branch first became generally available in June 2014, Red Hat has a long life cycle for its products. RHEL 6, which was first released in November 2010, is still in what Red Hat refers to as Product Phase 1, which means it is still benefiting from new capabilities and extensions to the platform's existing capabilities.
"There's no question that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 is a maturing product, one that supports many of the world's mission-critical workloads, and these customers put a greater emphasis on stability over new features," Steve Almy, senior product manager at Red Hat, told eWEEK.
RHEL 6.8, however, will likely be the last RHEL 6.x release that gets new features. After this release, Red Hat expects to move RHEL 6.x into Production Phase 2, which is focused almost exclusively on bug fixes and security errata, favoring stability over innovation, according to Almy.
"For customers who are looking for newer or advanced features, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 provides them with the platform that can best match their needs," he said.
Even though RHEL 7 has been in the market for nearly two years, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the platform that the majority Red Hat customers immediately migrate to. Almy explained that Red Hat's RHEL customers use multiple versions of the platform today, and the subscription model gives them the flexibility to run any supported version. Given the scope of Red Hat's customer base, this leads to many deployment scenarios. For example, some customers have very large and highly tuned workloads that may still be running on RHEL 6, but they are implementing new business projects on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.
"With that said, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 has been out for six years and, as you can imagine, it has a loyal customer base and makes up the majority of customer deployments," Almy said. "Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 adoption, however, is at the fastest rate of any of our major platform releases at this point in its life cycle."
The majority of the new features landing in RHEL 6.8 are being backported from the RHEL 7 product branch. Among them is the Libreswan virtual private network (VPN) technology that will become the new default VPN technology in RHEL 6, replacing Openswan.
"Openswan has provided VPN endpoint functionality to the Linux community for a very long time," Almy said. "However, Libreswan, which was first introduced in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7, has shown greater community participation, making it easier and faster to address issues found in the public domain, which can ultimately lead to a more stable experience for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 users."
RHEL 6.8 will also gain the "relax and recover" data recovery technology that is in RHEL 7.2. The technology is rooted in the open-source "relax and recover" project that defines itself as a setup-and-forget Linux bare metal disaster recovery solution.
"We have had a good response to this feature in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7, and customers will see similar benefits on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6," Almy said.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.