Red Hat Launches RHEL 6 with Goal of Taking on Windows

With its long-anticipated release of Linux 6, Red Hat stressed its cloud features, performance improvements and energy savings.

Red Hat's launch of Linux 6 to great fanfare on Nov. 10 stressed performance, green IT and virtualization capabilities.

Emphasizing that this was not just a product release, RHEL 6 (Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6) is the "culmination" of 10 years of learning and partnering," Paul Cormier, Red Hat's executive vice president and president of products and technologies, said at the launch event, which was also on a live Webcast.

The announcement was a long time coming and highly anticipated, and more than 1,000 people tuned in to the Webcast, the company said.

Red Hat is going to play an instrumental role in shaping the tech landscape in the next 10 years, said Jim Totton, a former Microsoft executive who joined Red Hat six months ago as vice-president of the platform business unit.

Instead of just being a standalone server operating system, RHEL is a business operating system for both virtualization and the cloud, said Cormier.

Claiming there are only two commercial operating systems in the enterprise, Windows and Linux, Red Hat's goal is for Linux to be "even more broadly and deeply" deployed than ever, from the small to midsized companies to the enterprise, said Totton.

"We want to drive Linux deeper into every single IT organization. It is a great product to erode the Microsoft Server ecosystem," said Cormier.

The development team included a lot of virtualization and cloud features. RHEL 6 was "built with the cloud in mind," said Cormier. He claimed RHEL virtualized guests can reach 85 percent to 90 percent of the performance of running on native hardware, using a kernel-based virtual machine, which was first introduced in RHEL 5.4. Organizations can also run RHEL 5 guests on a RHEL 6 host, said Totton.

Red Hat continued its tradition of one operating system across multiple architectures, instead of getting bogged down developing for one system or another, said Cormier. No matter where the operating system is, whether it's running in the data center, in the cloud, on bare-metal servers, or on a virtual machine, RHEL 6 will deliver the same performance, which is a sign of "open source success," Cormier said.

Red Hat engineers worked on kernel improvements and power management to make RHEL 6 power-efficient, to the tune of using 40 percent less electricity, said Totton. Some of these changes had been introduced in RHEL 5.4 in the spring. With these changes in place, Red Hat engineers managed to squeeze out an additional 25 percent more energy efficiency in RHEL 6, he said.

According to Totton, the team contributed more than 3,500 changes to the Linux kernel.

Totton and Cormier threw out some interesting numbers through the course of the event. RHEL 6 has more than 2,000 code packages and an 85 percent increase in the amount of code from RHEL 5, said Totton. While more lines of code don't necessarily translate into a better product, the sheer amount of choice available is staggering.

Red Hat also incorporated 1,821 customer-requested features and resolved more than 14,000 bugs on its way to RHEL 6, said Totton. In fact, RHEL 6 represents more than 600 "person-years" of work by Red Hat engineers, Totton said.

Citing Moore's Law, the team made the operating system future-proof. It can support up to 16 terabytes of memory architecturally, even though, as Totton noted, no physical system can actually run that much memory at this time. It has also been configured for 4,096 CPUs, and can support a 100-TB file system under a single OS-another current impossibility.

Red Hat is currently benchmarking the performance of RHEL 6 as compared to Windows Server 2008, said Red Hat.

When asked whether Red Hat considered itself ahead of Oracle in the "kernel race" because of the improvements it's made, Cormier called the question "irrelevant." Instead, he said, "There is no kernel race. Linux is way beyond what version of kernel you are on, way beyond that." He added that the technology roadmap was the important part.

Just because RHEL 6 is out, doesn't mean RHEL 5 is done, said Cormier during the Q&A session of the launch event. RHEL 5 was released in 2007. With Red Hat maintaining a 10-year lifecycle for its products, the company has another seven years to work in more improvements and new features for RHEL 5, Cormier said.

In fact, Red Hat announced a beta of RHEL 5.6 just the day before, adding support for BIND 9.7, improved DNSsec support, PHP 5.3, the Ethernet layer firewall and dropwatch network stack packet analysis.

Just because RHEL 6 is out doesn't mean the company is not already looking ahead. The development project for RHEL 7 was formally kicked off this week, said Tim Burke, Red Hat's vice president of Linux development. RHEL 7 will most likely focus on data center manageability, he said.

"But RHEL 6 is not over yet, just as 5 is not over. We have 10 more years of features coming," said Burke.