Red Hat is now in the process of testing the latest iteration of its flagship platform with the beta release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.4 (RHEL).
RHEL 6.4 provides users with improved security enhancements as well as a number of new Microsoft-enabling features. The new RHEL beta update follows RHEL 6.3, which debuted in June and provided users with enhanced virtualization scalability.
Microsoft-Enabling Features a Focus in RHEL 6.4
One of the key Microsoft-enabling features in RHEL 6.4 is support for Microsoft Hyper-V Linux drivers. There are also interoperability improvements with Microsoft Exchange in the Evolution email system that Red Hat includes in RHEL.
"The integration of the Microsoft Hyper-V drivers was a planned activity," Ron Pacheco, Senior Manager, Product Marketing at Red Hat, told ServerWatch. "As is our practice with all aspects of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, we wait for the code (including drivers) to be accepted into the upstream community before they can be introduced into Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.9, and now in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.4."
Microsoft first contributed the drivers to the mainstream Linux kernel earlier this year. The code contribution was a large one, resulting in Microsoft becoming one of the larger code contributors to Linux, according to a report from the Linux Foundation issued earlier this year.
"In Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.4, we also wanted to improve the experience with Red Hat Enterprise Linux as a guest," Pacheco added. "So we undertook work to simplify the installation of Red Hat Enterprise Linux as a guest in Hyper-V and VMware."
Some of the Microsoft-related work completed by Red Hat was done in cooperation with Microsoft.
"We have been working with Microsoft to test the 'upgrade' paths from Microsoft-provided drivers to the drivers integrated into Red Hat Enterprise Linux, as we both want our mutual customers to use what is delivered in Red Hat Enterprise Linux," Pacheco said.
Red Hat and Microsoft are no strangers to working together on virtualization interoperability. Back in 2009 the two rivals entered into a virtualization interoperability deal between Microsoft's Windows Server and Red Hat's Enterprise Linux.
Security Enhancement in RHEL 6.4
Beyond just virtualization and the new Microsoft-enabling features, RHEL 6.4 also includes improved security capabilities that help in heterogeneous environments. RHEL 6.4 additionally features an updated version of the System Security Services Daemon (SSSD). The SSSD first appeared in RHEL 6.0 as a mechanism for improving identity management.
"SSSD provides a unified framework for authenticating clients against disparate directories, including Active Directory and LDAP-standard directories," Siddharth Nager, Product Manager for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, explained to ServerWatch. "Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.4 delivers additional features to make it easier to integrate Linux clients with Windows and UNIX environments."
Nager added that SSSD is enhanced in this release to make it even easier to authenticate to Active Directory using SASL with LDAP.
The enhanced SSSD support is something that is likely not going to land on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.x, which is still actively maintained.
"Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.9, which is planned to GA early next year, will conclude Production Phase 1 of its life cycle," Pacheco said. "It is during this phase when we typically add new features to the release. Given the timing, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 will not inherit SSSD support."