BOSTON. In a standing room-only set of sessions at the Red Hat Summit here this week, the future of Red Hat Enterprise Linux was revealed.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), the Linux vendor's core platform, had its last major release with the debut of RHEL 6 in November of 2010. Red Hat has been releasing major new RHEL platforms every two to three years, and at its 2012 Summit event the company had hinted that 2013 could be the year in which RHEL 7 might be released.
As it turns out, the exact timing for the general availability of RHEL 7 is still in question. Ronald Pacheco, Senior Manager, Technology Product Management at Red Hat, said that his company has been working on RHEL 7 for a long time.
He stressed that RHEL 6 and 5 are still strong platforms and are being updated and iterated. RHEL 6.4 for example was recently released, providing new Microsoft interoperability capabilities.
That said, Paccheco realizes that there are a lot of questions around RHEL 7 and its availability.
"The plans are to put out a beta at the end of the calendar year," Paccheco said.
In terms of features, RHEL 7 will mark a departure on a number of fronts from previous Red Hat releases.
Ric Wheeler, Kernel File and Storage Team Senior Manager and Architect at Red Hat, told the capacity crowd that the XFS filesystem will be the new default in RHEL 7 instead of EXT4.
Previously there had been some discussion that perhaps the Btrfs filesystem could play a big role in the upcoming Linux release, though Wheeler said the plan is now to make sure that Btrfs is in shape so it can be included as an option.
From a Linux kernel perspective, Wheeler hinted that from a timing perspective the Linux 3.11 kernel is likely the one that would power RHEL 7. The most recent generally available kernel right now in the upstream Linux community is Linux 3.9, with 3.10 set to debut in the coming weeks.
From a hardware enablement perspective, Peter Martuccelli, Senior Engineering Manager for Platform Enablement at Red Hat, said that RHEL 7 will support UEFI and Secure Boot.
RHEL 7 will also include the Hardware Error Reporting Mechanism [HERM], which aims to improves server logging mechanisms by integration with various hardware error input methods.
One of the biggest areas of improvement in RHEL 7 is likely to be networking services.
Rashid Kahn, Senior Engineering Manager for networking services at Red Hat, joked with the audience that from his perspective RHEL 7 is in fact, "all about networking."
One of the major new improvements is the addition of the Team Driver. Kahn explained that the driver combines multiple networking interfaces into a single interface. The goal of the driver is to provide improved throughput, networking redundancy and easier management.
The Precision Time Protocol (PTP) will also land in RHEL 7. PTP was available as a technology preview in RHEL 6.4 and is expected to be fully supported in RHEL 6.5.
"If time is money, you might want to try PTP precision time protocol," Kahn said.
PTP can have a use-case in high-frequency trading as it ensures precise sub microsecond synchronization of distributed clocks over the network.
The other big addition set to land in RHEL 7 is the inclusion of Open vSwitch support. Open vSwitch is an open source virtual switch that initially became available in the upstream Linux kernel with the Linux 3.3 release in March of 2012.
Kahn said that Open vSwitch will be a tech preview in RHEL 6.5 and will be fully supported in RHEL 7.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.