Well, well, RHEL – A look at the RHEL 8 Beta

Does anyone remember the calculator watch? I suppose I speak of it as a passing antiquated technology, but then again you can buy a new one off of Amazon right now. What’s really amazing is how computers are just an evolution of the calculator watch – fundamentally all computers do is compute values, store them if need be, and the speed of which it does so is a function of time.

The epitome of cool.

The fundamentals have evolved past the Casio DataBank, our fundamentals in modern IT revolve around Automation, Containers, and Data so large there aren’t enough calculator watches in the universe to process or store.

One of any environment’s core fundamentals is the operating system – something that’s maybe not as exciting as the latest and greatest blockchain & AI-powered hyperlocal and hypersocial apps, but that’s a good thing. Once a technology is boring that means it’s found success as an integral part of your operations, something you don’t have to worry about, it just works and enables you to do your work.

Raising the Stakes

Now, Red Hat is flipping the script a little on their flagship operating system, Red Hat Enterprise Linux. All of our customers use it as the secure & supported choice, and they’ll be receiving a torrent of new capabilities in this new iteration of the operating system. These capabilities will no doubt be boring in 5+ years, but now they’re almost revolutionary as they enable new ways of deploying applications, keeping your systems secure, and operating your infrastructure in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Containers, Containers, CONTAINERS!

Gone are the days of needing to install Docker and running a daemon and even better – no more needing to be root to create, inspect, and run containers.

Steve Ballmer once largely exclaimed to a large crowd the infamous line “DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS!” ad-nauseum in a vivid and voracious verse. Now the chant could change to contain the collection of characters “CONTAINERS! CONTAINERS! CONTAINERS! CONTAINERS!”

Coming in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 is the inclusion of Buildah, Podman, and Skopeo to natively create, run, and inspect containers and registries. This is very exciting because it’ll be a true OCI-spec container foundation, fully open-source, and can run without needing a daemon operating and without the need to load containers as root. Containers are already part of what our customers are working with and a large part of their missions going forward – this positions RHEL to be the platform to quickly and securely get up and running with containers.

Base Package Version Updates and Something YUMmy

Red Hat has to carefully balance the latest and greatest packages, with what their customers actually want, different project lifecycles, and what they can maintain, deliver, and secure. It’s a delicate act, to say the least, but in the latest version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, there will be a few updates to some base and core packages to keep an eye out for.

Package Consumption

The officially supported instance of Python has been updated to Python 3.6, though you may be surprised to not find Python installed by default – instead, you’ll install your choice of Python packages with the new package management functions included in the newer version of YUM, the package manager used by RHEL, CentOS, Fedora, and a smattering of other distributions.

YUM has gone under a bit of an overhaul, you’ll still be able to use the same commands, but now you also get the benefit of the new YUM modules function and Application Streams.

With the new functionality brought in by YUM modules, which is an extension to the RPM format, you can now install different versions of the same package and have them separated and activate a specific tagged version globally. Another benefit of Application Streams is that they can reuse shared files which decreases space consumption and requirements to house multiple different versions of a package.

Application Streams also go hand-in-hand with another improvement that Red Hat has provided in RHEL 8 – the delineation of BaseOS packages and packages from an Application Stream. BaseOS packages provide the needed bits and bytes for the basics of the operating system – the kernel, SystemD, udev, and so on. The extra packages such as NTP/Chrony, DNSMASQ, Python, and so on are part of Application Streams instead. This separation makes it much easier to administrate and manage the packages on your systems, as well as makes it easier to perform version migrations and updates moving forward. This is the best of Alternatives, the Red Hat Software Collection, and other mechanisms coming together to create a powerful package manager.

Installation Roles

Red Hat has also taken the time to simplify installation processes as well with this new release of Enterprise Linux. Now you don’t have to worry about downloading and storing different versions of RHEL for Desktop, Workstation, Server, and otherwise. Instead, now you’ll have a System Role specification set to a machine on install that will determine if the installation is meant for a Desktop, Workstation, or Server.

Enhanced Security

OpenSSL 1.1.1 and TLS 1.3 are both supported in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 and bring a number of extra capabilities to secure your operating environment. This paired with the other NFV, SDN, and platform technologies allow you and your organization to utilize the latest cryptographic standards in a managed and streamlined way, such as certificate distribute, pinning, stapling, and more.

Get your own at the Red Haberdashery

They’ve got a number of other improvements, from first-class support for RHEL on ARM systems, to Cockpit and Composer which allows you to create your very own custom Red Hat Enterprise Linux images from a graphical interface. There are new supported file systems that allow for distributed and dynamic storage devices, new networking interfaces, and of course additional security measures baked in even more.

I could go on and on about the exciting, fun, and new capabilities Red Hat brings with their next itteration of their Enterprise Linux offering but that might be defined as insane rambling as far as a blog post goes – like the Energizer bunny it’d go on, and on, and on…

The best way to wrap your head around the changes coming in the next version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux is to get your hands dirty with it, even if in just a virtual machine – even getting through the installation process will show you some capabilities that you’ll be excited to unwrap once you boot up.

Get your own copy of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 Beta here, and get a jump start on the coming wave of Enterprise Linux. Stay tuned for new certification & training offerings specifically for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.

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