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Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 Hits Beta 2, Targeting Year End Release

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Linux vendor Red Hat is out this week with the second major milestone for the next generation of its enterprise Linux release, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 (RHEL), as the Linux player ramps up development for its flagship operating system.

The development of RHEL 6 has been closely watched as Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) seeks to grow its already sizable share of the enterprise Linux market, though the company remains cagey over an exact release date. When it ships, RHEL 6 will provide new performance, virtualization and hardware enablement for Red Hat’s enterprise users. RHEL 6 Beta 2 follows the RHEL 6 Beta 1 release by just over two months, and while it builds on the earlier beta, testers shouldn’t expect to see any major new features at this point.

“The majority of functionality landed in Beta 1,” Tim Burke, vice president of platform engineering at Red Hat, told “What is in Beta 2 is primarily fixes and minor late-breaking enhancements.”

For instance, Burke said that Anaconda, Red Hat’s Linux installer, received some attention in Beta 2, chiefly around “late-breaking hardware enablement.”

There are also enhancements to the Linux kernel used in the RHEL 6 Beta 2 release. Burke explained that the kernel has not been rebased wholesale, although there have been several subsystems updated to incorporate the company’s recent upstream work.

RHEL 6 uses a hybrid kernel that includes part of the Linux 2.6.34 kernel release that Red Hat deems to be mature enough for enterprise users.

In addition to the enhancements to the kernel and installer, Red Hat is also restructuring the beta for some specific use-cases. There is now a RHEL 6 Server release as well as a RHEL 6 Workstation release. Additionally, for the server release, there are now Clustered Storage, Large File System, High Availability and Load Balance versions.

“They are each layered products on top of a standard base, so it’s certainly not separate, full-distro spins,” Burke said.

For the Load Balance version, Burke explained that RHEL 6 is providing a round-robin type of service for IP traffic shaping. He noted that Red Hat has had this capability in its cluster suite add-on to Red Hat Enterprise Linux since RHEL 2.1.

Meanwhile, the RHEL 6 Workstation release is a desktop version of RHEL targeted for use by developers.

“It includes a more complete set of devel/debug tools,” Burke said. “Additionally, developer workstations tend to be more beefy boxes, containing more memory and CPUs, hence that variant has higher scalability limits.”

Eying RHEL 6’s release date

Burke said the RHEL Beta 1 release had been well received by testers. Moving forward with the new Beta 2, he expects that more milestone builds will be required before the final release: According to Burke, it’s in the best interests of the beta ecosystem to have fresh, relevant bits.

In terms of when RHEL 6 will become generally available, however, Red Hat hasn’t yet offered a publicly available release date, though Burke did drop some hints.

“Formal product schedules have not been made public, but our guidance is within this calendar year,” Burke said. “While we do have a firm internal target date, the overriding factor is the ‘E’ in ‘RHEL.’ We take that very seriously and will not ship the release until it firmly meets our high standards, meaning the release is primarily quality-driven rather than strictly schedule/date-driven.”

RHEL 6 will be the first major version update since the RHEL 5 release in 2007. RHEL 5 has been updated five times since its initial release, with the most recent release being RHEL 5.5, which came out in April.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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