Red Hat boosts scalability in enterprise Linux upgrade

Red Hat will preview on Wednesday an upgrade to its enterprise Linux distribution, which offers dramatic improvements in scalability as well as power management and storage enhancements.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 6 offers advancements gleaned from the past four years of upstream kernel development as well advances in compiling and debugging, virtualization and performance, said Tim Burke, vice president of platform engineering at Red Hat. A beta release is available at Red Hat’s Web page.

“We’re trying to have lower total cost of ownership of deployment for large data centers,” with version 6, Burke said. The release also is intended for midsize businesses as well, he said. General availability of the finished RHEL 6 release is planned for later this year.

In a prepared statement, the Linux Foundation endorsed both Red Hat and RHEL 6.

“Red Hat has set the standard of success for open source companies. Their business results are outstanding and have silenced long ago any doubters about whether or not you can build a profitable business on open source and Linux,” said Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer programs at the foundation. “RHEL6 will be a big milestone for the Linux industry and Red Hat’s millions of corporate users.”

In the scalability realm, version 6 supports much larger memory configurations. “We can go up to 128TB,” of addressable physical address space, Burke said. This is far beyond the previous limit of a single terabyte. Add in virtualization and swapping capabilities, and memory consumption is “almost unbounded,” said Burke.

The upgrade also vastly improves CPU volume support, enabling the OS to scale out to hardware systems expected in the future. Previously, RHEL supported an estimated 512 processors; now it has a theoretical limit of 64,000 processors

“We can support vastly more CPUs, more core processors than we could in RHEL 5 and prior releases,” Burke said.

For power management, an improved system scheduler is featured that can, for example, drop unused sockets into lower power states. To improve storage and volume management, version 6 offers better handling of multipath devices in storage arrays. Bandwidth usage is improved among multiple interconnects. Network block storage is supported by FCoE and iSCSI protocols.

Reliability has been improved, with version 6 better able to isolate such system issues as faulty memory. Also, a new default file system is featured, dubbed ext4. It supports largre file sizes and more efficient allocation of disk space, Red Hat said.

Version 6 builds on the KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) virtualization in earlier releases, incorporating performance, scheduler and hardware support enhancements, the company said.

A control group, or cgroup, capability enables better control over resource consumption, such as memory bandwidth. Users, for example, can allot specific percentages of memory bandwidth to specific applications, Burke said.

An SSDD (System Security Services Daemon) in RHEL 6 provides central management of identities and can cache credentials for offline use. A SELInux sandbox allows execution of un-trusted content in an isolated environment.

The GCC compiler in version 6 has been updated to version 4.4. It features debugging capabilities and conforming to the OpenMP 3.0. API for parallel programming. An automated bug reporting tool is featured to provide a consistent way to find and report system exception conditions such as kernel failures.

RHEL 6 serves as a hybrid of the most recent Linux kernels, including the Linux 2.6.34 kernel still in development, said Burke. Red Hat will take the beta version and fashion different variants, including a desktop version. For the desktop, version 6 includes driver updates to support Nvidia graphics devices. The Gnome and KDE desktops are updated as well.

RHEL 5 was released in March 2007 and has had regular updates since then, Red Had said. Red Hat and ISV and OEM partners will continue to support it until 2014, Red Hat said.

Red Hat’s Linux runs on 32- and 64-bit Intel and AMD chips as well as IBM PowerPC and IBM System z mainframe systems.

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