Red Hat thinks the 64-bit ARM architecture will be ready for the data center and cloud someday soon. The release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server for ARM (RHELA) to beta may be this year or early 2016.
At Red Hat Summit in Boston, Denise Dumas, Red Hat's Vice President of Operating System Platform, said the company is working on full ARM support. This development preview is based on RHEL 7.1. That said, RHELA won't be exactly the same as x86 RHEL 7.1.
According to Red Hat, while RHELA will retain many key features, this specialized offering is based on the latest version of the Linux kernel with 64-bit ARM v8A architecture support. RHELA will bring the same RHEL 7.1 environment and tools to users. Red Hat claims that this will offer "a seamless user experience across architectures and simplifying porting and development efforts for our partners, ISVs and enterprise developers."
The RHELA port has taken so long because "When ARM designed the AArch64 architecture, [ARM and its partners] also had to provide ports and specifications for the firmware, the kernel, the libraries, the compiler, and so on. Hundreds of packages were affected."
To bring all this to RHEL, Red Hat started where these upstream communities left off. This was done in Fedora, Red Hat's community Linux. The Fedora ARM team began working on porting AArch64 into Fedora 17. It wasn't until Fedora 19, in June 2013, that the initial Fedora port was done. And, it took until the Fedora 21 December 2014 release for a proper aarch64 secondary architecture release to be built entirely on real hardware.
Today, RHELA is a preview with most of the base RHEL7 feature set. It's for developers with programming languages, performance profiling and debugging tools, server daemons, plus a contemporary Linux kernel. It's still far from ready for data center or cloud deployment, but it's getting there.
To speed up its development, Red Hat has recently increased its ARM partnerships. Its partners now include silicon vendors and OEMs as well as ISVs. Organizations interested in evaluating particular hardware designs with the RHELA Development Preview should inquire with their respective hardware vendor to determine availability and request access.