Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.4 arrives and take Linux to computing's edge

The latest version of Red Hat's flagship Linux operating system is designed to be deployed on the computing edge.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Arpit Joshipura, The Linux Foundation's general manager of networking, once said "edge computing will overtake cloud computing" by 2025. By edge computing, Joshipura meant open compute and storage resources that are five to 20 milliseconds away. That used to be common. They were the computers in our server room. Now, we often rely on cloud computing instead. But, Red Hat, primarily a hybrid-cloud company now, is reminding us that its latest version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is also great for your local and edge servers. 

They have reason to remind IT leaders of this. A recent Linux Foundation study, 2021 State of the Edge, predicts that by 2025, between the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and edge-related devices we'll need to deal with about 90 zettabytes of data. That's a heck of a lot of data! 

To manage it, Red Hat proposes that you use its software, with RHEL 8.4 as its foundation for your edge-ready technology stack. Besides RHEL 8.4, this includes the new Red Hat OpenShift Plus, which includes support for 3-node clusters and remote worker nodes, making it possible to deploy Kubernetes on low-powered edge equipment.

RHEL 8.4's Image Builder now supports the creation of installation media tailored for bare metal. That's handy for when you want to maintain a common foundation across disconnected edge environments.

The Red Hat Universal Base Image (UBI), which lets you build small RHEL instances for running inside containers, has also been enhanced. With UBI you can now more easily pick and choose what operating system features, such as SELinux security, you want to retain in your container Linux. For edge computing, UBI is now available in a lightweight (micro) image.

RHEL 8.4's Podman, Red Hat's open standards-based container engine for hybrid cloud container management, has also been improved. Now, no matter where your containers live -- locally, data center, or cloud, Podman 3 enables you to manage them. Its best improvement is you can do automatic container image updates. With a little elbow grease and Ansible DevOps, you can have your containers checked with your favorite container registry and pull down and install the release of your favorite container image. Used sensibly -- no grabbing containers from a dodgy public registry -- this can be a real time saver.

RHEL 8.4's Application Stream, which gives you the option of staying on a familiar version of a language or tool -- such as GCC, Node.js, or Ruby -- or updating to a newer version of the language now has new offerings. The refreshed Streams include recent database versions -- PostgreSQL 13, Redis 6 and MariaDB 10.5 -- and programming languages and compilers -- Go 1.15, Rust 1.49, Python 3.9, and LLVM/Clang.

Sysadmins will be pleased with the new RHEL because managing subscriptions has been made easier. As Joe Brockmeier, editorial director of the Red Hat Blog, remarked, "'The time I spend managing subscriptions is the most rewarding part of my job,' said no system administrator, ever. With that in mind, one of the improvements we're rolling out with RHEL 8.4 is a better subscription management experience." 

This is because RHEL no longer requires subscription allocation. Instead, you can use streamlined services, like customizable images and subscription management, without extra steps. RHEL also includes enhanced visibility of subscription deployment across hybrid clouds.
Looking ahead, as a tech preview, there's a new shell command rhc, to simplify host registration and management. Now, with a single command, you can register a host to Red Hat Subscription Management and Red Hat Insights. It will also let you define the Insights services that are available and install additional packages like OpenSCAP.
To help you manage your RHEL servers no matter where they are, the web console's upgraded interface lets you see live and historical performance metrics across CPU, memory, network, and storage. This is a big help both in tracking down problems or just letting you see what's what with your servers at any given moment or in the past.

Co-Pilot (PCP) performance monitoring tool has also gotten a tune-up. It now enables you to monitor and manage performance data in close to real-time. You can also now collect a range of data points, visualize them with Grafana dashboards, set up rules, and be alerted when certain performance thresholds are met. All-in-all, just for these more sysadmin friendly features alone, I, as a former sysadmin, would consider upgrading to RHEL 8.4

The new RHEL 8.4 will shortly be available to all active RHEL subscriptions via the Red Hat Customer Portal.
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