Linux vendor Red Hat is updating its flagship Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) to version 5.3 with added support for new Intel Nehalem hardware and including new Java, clustered file system and security tools.
RHEL 5.3 also adds improved support for Windows Vista interoperability, something that had been lacking from prior RHEL releases.
"Our minor releases are refreshes of the RHEL 5 release and contain mostly bug fixes and hardware enablement and to a certain degree also new software features,' Daniel Riek Manager, Product Management, Red Hat Enterprise Linux told InternetNews.com.
"Instead of the old megahertz race vendors are now competing on the feature side again. As well raw bug fixing can also destabilize a system and customers prefer to get clear sync points for things that are not urgent security issues."
One key issue that RHEL 5.3 addresses is Windows Vista interoperability. Red Hat has updated and improved the Samba (define), Linux to Window file sharing technology so that it will support Window Vista.
"We have seen demand for Vista compatibility in 2008 and it became a problem that we didn't have really good support for," Riek admitted. "We did some changes on the Samba side to get the new Vista enablement there we also did some work on CIFS (define) side so Linux can work as a client to Windows servers."
Though Red Hat has improved interoperability from a file sharing point of view with Vista, access control issues still remain to be solved with Windows Server 2008. Among the key enhancements of Windows Server 2008 is Network Access Protection (NAP), which validates end point integrity and enables access.
Riek noted that RHEL does not currently support NAP though he noted Red Hat intends on providing an update on how and when they will support NAP in the RHEL 5.4 release in six months time.
On the hardware front, RHEL 5.3 supports Intel's new Nehalem chip architecture. Nehalem has a different memory layout than previous generations of Intel CPU architectures and thus required different memory management configuration on the RHEL side to optimize performance. RHEL 5.3 also provides a boost for virtualization with support for up to 1 TB of memory per virtualization host as well as being able to handle up to 126 CPUs.
The RHEL 5.3 release also marks the official debut of the open source OpenJDK (Java Development Kit) Java engine. Red Hat had been working with Sun Microsystems since November of 2007 on the OpenJDK, which is a fully open source implementation of Java. RHEL previously had only included the Sun and IBM implementations of Java, neither of which was fully open source. Riek explained that the OpenJDK implementation in RHEL 5.3 grew out of the IcedTea JDK that Red Hat has been testing for the past 18 months. Riek did not have any specific performance information to share about the OpenJDK though he did not that some initial results did show great promise.
RHEL 5.3 will also mark the official debut of Red Hat's GFS 2(Global File System) clustered file system. GFS is a technology first developed by Sistina Software which Red Hat acquired Sistina in 2003. The first Red Hat release of GFS came in 2004. Riek explained that GFS version two is a redesign that enables the actual physical data on the disk to be more scalable and provides more performance.
While the RHEL 5.3 improves the Linux operating system for Red Hat's enterprise customers, work is now also starting to ramp up on the next big release, RHEL 6. Subhendu Ghosh Product Manager, Red Hat Enterprise Linux told InternetNews.com that Red Hat is now working on the requirements phase for RHEL 6 and that a beta release could be out inside of the next 12 months.
The RHEL 5.3 release comes after several months of beta testing and is the third update for RHEL 5 since its initial release in 2007.
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