Top new features in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8

So Red Hat just released a new version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Two questions: what’s new, and is RHEL still rhelevant with cloud, containers, serverless and all that?

Let’s start with the last question. The simple answer is: absolutely!

No matter how your workload is executed or where your data is stored, there will always be physical hardware running an operating system (OS). With containers and virtual machines the ration between physical servers and operating systems is actually going up! You now have even more instances of whatever OS you use. Picking a supported, stable and secure OS is still important, but features such as adaptability is growing even more important. We all want stable and secure, but with change going even faster we also crave the latest and greatest at the same time.

Here is where the biggest new features in RHEL 8 is very relevant.

Application Streams

Having a stable OS usually means you need to sacrifice modernity (it’s a word!) and hold off on the latest versions of your platforms and tools. Here’s where “Application Streams” come in. In RHEL 8 you can leave the core OS stable and predictable, and still run the latest version of Node.js or Python. This will not affect the core components such as dnf which will continue to use the version of Python shipped as standard.

Finally we can have both stable and modern!

Web Console with Session Recording

Based on Cockpit which has been around for a while, Red Hat Enterprise Linux Web Conaole allows non-geeks that doesn’t have much experience with Linux in general or RHEL in particular, administer and operate RHEL with ease. All the usual Cockpit tools are there like resource utilization, user management, shell console, and system logs. One really cool feature that is new is called Session Recording. This allows you to record SSH sessions on the server and play them back, allowing you to get total visibility on who did what. This is a great feature for the security conscious among us.

Universal Base Image

The last feature I would like to highlight is the new container image that is released along with RHEL 8: Universal Base Image (UBI). It’s not really new, it has been available for a while, but the big news is that it no longer requires an active RHEL subscription. This is big because it means we can build containers based on RHEL using our Apple laptops or CentOS temporary virtual machines. When the container goes into production it can be tied to an active subscription from the host. This gives you freedom to build and test containers anywhere, without sacrificing enterprise support in production. Finally!

Red Hat Summit 2019

Once every year the world’s biggest open source company invites customers, partners and nerds to come together and share their knowledge, stories and visions for three days.

I was blessed by Basalt with a trip to this year’s incarnation of Red Hat Summit at Boston. I got three days packed full of breakout sessions, hands-on labs, partner demos, and, most importantly, meeting cool people and making new connections.

So what is going on in the open source world right now? One of the biggest trends is container technology with Kubernetes at the forefront. The Red Hat product here is OpenShift and it is being pushed aggressively. But I think there is good reason for Red Hat to push for it. It’s a bet on the future and the future is containers (or at least that’s what a lot of us strongly believe). Pushing OpenShift is Red Hat trying to capitalize on that future as the provider of one of the key infrastructure components powering that future.

Another really big trend is automation. Well, to be fair automation has been around for thousands of years so calling it a trend might not be fair, but we see a strong push for Red Hat Ansible as the way to automate not only deployments and configurations, but what we call “day 2 operations”. Things such as managing users, granting and removing access, creating workspaces, moving stuff around, tweaking parameters. All the work that the IT admins do every day. Will Ansible steal the job of our beloved IT admins and create massive unemployment problems around the globe? Not likely. Ansible will be (and is!) helping IT admins focus on the fun part of their job such as developing the environment with new features, improved configurations, awesome optimizations and completely new deployments. Because let’s face it: IT admins don’t particularly enjoy feeding in the same data over and over when creating users. Or managing approval workflows just to close a service ticket from a developer asking for a port opening. Ansible coupled with a self-service portal will make life easier for the burdened IT admin, giving them an hour extra every morning to have breakfast with their kids. Cause that’s the ultimate goal of automation: removing the boring parts of life so we can spend our limited time doing stuff that makes us happy.

The last trend that’s a bit of an outsider relative to the others is Artificial Intelligence. There are lots of sessions and talks about the emerging use of AI for various use cases. But the thing that makes AI stand out is that Red Hat really has no product for this market right now. Mostly they position OpenShift as the platform on which you should run the AI engine, but they don’t offer their own AI engine today. I strongly believe this to change soon. AI is becoming more and more necessary. It’s moving from “something cool that makes for a sweet demo” to “something we require to continue to grow”. As systems become more dynamic and the number of events generated in the system grows, the more stuff you have to analyze. If a web request returns a 503 and it is related to a hundred different services running on many virtual machines across multiple clouds, it’s hard to do root cause analysis as a human. Using an AI engine you can quickly find out that the 503 is caused by a CPU overload that is in turn caused by a configuration issue causing an infinite loop in a completely separate process. And that’s just one use case where AI will become more or less required in the systems of the future. As data grows, AI is required to manage and make sense of that data.

So to summarize, the current trends that is prominent during Red Hat Summit 2019 is:

  • Containers
  • Automation
  • Artificial Intelligence

If you are not yet exploring these trends let me know and we can help you ensure you stay modern in a world where the only constant is change.