Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 Helps Developers Handle Workloads: Review

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The latest Linux-based OS from Red Hat offers a strong foundation for hosting virtual workloads, complete with distinctive capabilities such as security features rooted in SE Linux

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, the latest version of Red Hat’s flagship Linux-based operating system, began shipping last month, boasting a bevy of core improvements around scalability, resource management and virtualisation.

What’s more, the system ships with a slate of updated open-source software components that stand to make life easier for developers and system administrators who wish to take advantage of recent features without leaving Red Hat’s support and certification umbrella to do so.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux has long been a trusty go-to operating system option for most server roles, if not in its official Red Hat branded form, then in one of its respun incarnations, such as the fee-free CentOS or the Oracle rebrand Unbreakable Linux.

Based on my tests of RHEL 6, I expect this new release to continue in that tradition—the new release performed as solidly as ever, and benefits from a support term that’s been lengthened from seven to 10 years.

Transitioned away from Xen and Mono

At sites that rely on Xen for virtualisation, or that wish to host .Net applications from Linux, Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server will offer a better fit, as Red Hat has transitioned completely away from Xen support in RHEL 6 and has consistently turned a cold shoulder to Mono, the open-source implementation of Microsoft’s .Net.

Mono is, however, available through the volunteer-based Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux project that rebuilds certain software packages from Fedora for use (albeit unsupported) with RHEL.

Also, while RHEL offers a strong foundation for hosting virtual workloads, complete with distinctive capabilities such as security features rooted in SELinux, it doesn’t, on its own, offer as well-integrated a virtualisation management experience as do purpose-built virtualisation products such as VMware’s vSphere.

However, I’ve yet to try Red Hat’s separate virtualisation management product, which has remained uncharacteristically proprietary in its licensing pending the completion of an effort to port the application to Java from C#.

While aimed primarily at server roles, RHEL 6 can also perform well as a desktop operating system, as it ships with recent versions of all of the usual suspects of the Linux desktop, anchored by Version 3.2 of the OpenOffice.org productivity suite and Version 3.6 of Mozilla’s Firefox Web browser.

RHEL includes fewer software packages than do some of its less buttoned-down Linux relations, but the EPEL repository I mentioned can fill some of these gaps in a desktop setting.

Sold by annual subscription

Red Hat has shifted its pricing around a bit for RHEL 6, most notably by increasing the starting cost of a supported edition of the product from $349 (£225) per year to $799 (£514) per year.

Red Hat still offers a $349 edition of the product, but that edition is now “self-supported”. The Production Support SLA page on Red Hat’s website still lists the “basic” support tier alongside the standard and premium tiers, but Red Hat doesn’t offer any RHEL SKUs with basic support, nor is basic support available on its own.

RHEL 6 is sold by annual subscription, on a per socket pair basis. An x86-64 server with two physical sockets running RHEL 6 will cost $799 (£514) annually with standard support, and $1,299 (£835) with premium support, each with an allowance for one virtualised RHEL guest instance.

Red Hat also sells editions with allowances for four guests, and for unlimited guests. Red Hat charges separately for “Add-on Functionality” such as high availability, load balancing and scalable file system support. The Power architecture and IBM System z editions of RHEL 6 are priced separately.