Red Hat's latest enterprise Linux distro has new features to tackle hybrid cloud complexity

In addition to unveiling RHEL 9.4, the company says it will support RHEL 7 for an extra four years.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
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Some people update to the latest version of an operating system as soon as it's available. Others hang on to their old operating system until it's covered in cobwebs and dust. Red Hat lets you do both. The Linux and hyper-cloud leader today released its newest flagship Linux distro, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 9.4, after last week announcing four more years of support for the popular, decade-old RHEL 7.9.

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Don't expect to see this kind of extended life for other RHEL versions. Unlike Canonical, which has given 12 years of support to all long-term support (LTS) versions of Ubuntu, Red Hat is giving RHEL 7 Extended Life Cycle Support (ELS) -- a one-time, additional four years of support. This means that instead of RHEL 7.9 leaving support on June 30, 2024, you can now get maintenance support with security patches and bug fixes for RHEL 7.9 until June 30, 2028.

Of course, what Red Hat really wants you to do is upgrade to a newer version of RHEL -- say, RHEL 9.4. This latest version of the leading enterprise Linux distro introduces a host of new features designed to simplify the management of hybrid cloud environments.

As RHEL VP and general manager Gunnar Hellekson says, "Linux is no longer just about the kernel or the command line. It's about making the platform more accessible, manageable, and responsive, especially as technology organizations scale across the hybrid cloud. Whether exploring the potential of AI workloads or simply trying to optimize existing resources, the latest release of RHEL helps limit complexity and improve efficiency while making the most of existing skills and tools."

Specifically, RHEL 9.4 enhances capabilities in management and automation and provides proactive support for the construction of standard operating environments (SOEs) for distributed systems.

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In part, SOEs are driven by deployment-ready Ansible DevOps content collections that help configure and launch common administrative tasks. These roles-related capabilities include:

  • System roles at the edge through rpm-ostree enable users to automate operating system-level tasks at the edge, such as Podman, for deploying product-ready container workloads.
  • A fapolicyd system role automates allowing or denying application executions at scale. This reduces the potential for human error when things go wrong.
  • A snapshot system role for administrators to create and manage point-in-time snapshots of logical volume manager (LVM) storage volumes. This helps speed up backup and recovery solutions in a more repeatable and predictable manner at scale.
  • A bootloader system role helps configure the kernel command line itself. This improves the consistency and management of Linux systems at scale.

If you manage clouds for a living, you may wonder what plans Red Hat has for combining Ansible DevOps with Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Terraform after IBM finished acquiring its parent company, HashiCorp. Red Hat isn't answering yet. (Yes, I asked.) The potential is certainly there for a powerful one-two DevOps/IaC punch.

In the meantime, Red Hat Insights updates, including the Insights image builder, will make it easier to create ready-to-run RHEL SOEs. The tool will soon offer proactive guidance, recommend additional relevant packages, and highlight crucial lifecycle information to aid system administrators and operations teams in managing upgrades and system longevity.

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The Red Hat Hybrid Cloud Console's virtual assistant now aids you in creating custom images for specific cloud platforms. Additionally, automation integration continues to deepen, with new RHEL system roles that streamline tasks such as application execution policies, snapshot management, and system boot configurations. These tools are designed to reduce human error and enhance operational efficiency at scale.

RHEL 9.4 has also improved its security stance. With its zero trust architecture (ZTA) security model, RHEL passkey authentication enables passwordless and multifactor authentication (MFA) with FIDO2 (Fast IDentity Online 2) compliant passkeys for centrally managed users. You can also configure WireGuard -- the high-performance, Linux kernel VPN -- via the RHEL web console to further improve system security.

Developers will be happy to see new Application Streams with Python 3.12 PostgreSQL 16, Ruby 3.3, MariaDB 10, LLVM 17, Rust 1.75, and Go 1.21. In short, today's latest language and DBMS releases will be at your fingertips. 

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With RHEL 9.4's general availability, Red Hat is also expanding its support for diverse hardware architectures, including full support for ARM. This move ensures that Red Hat's solutions are as flexible as the hybrid environments they are intended to support, accommodating a wide variety of server platforms.

Are you ready to move to something new? RHEL 9.4 is now available to existing customers through the Red Hat Customer Portal. Give it a look. I certainly will.

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