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Jon Gold
Senior Writer

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9 drops in beta version

Nov 03, 20213 mins
Data CenterLinuxOpen Source

Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 9 is edge-friendly and has plenty of new features, but a surprisingly forgiving learning curve.

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Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 9 released today as a beta, bringing about a dozen major new features focused on security and compliance, simplified management and automation. But the biggest news might be the lack of changes to the management and administration tools from the previous version, which could make adoption fairly painless.

The key new management features include enhanced web-console performance metrics for easier diagnosis of problems, live kernel patching without the need for downtime, and an easier way to create new OS images.

Many of those features make RHEL 9 better-suited to use in edge environments, according to IDC vice president Dave McCarthy, who noted that automation seemed to be a particularly important focus in the new version.

“It’s scalability in a different way than people used to think about it in a data center,” he said. “[Red Hat is] realizing that [RHEL]’s being put into environments where it hasn’t been before.”

Security and compliance got some important new features in RHEL 9 as well. Red Hat announced native support for Smart Card authentication via web console, extra security profiles designed to simplify compliance with standards like HIPAA and PCI-DSS, more detailed single-sign-on logging and integrated OpenSSL 3.

The company also announced new containerization options, including standardized universal base images in “micro” and “minimal” form factors, meant for development of applications designed for constrained devices—again, a new feature set that could make RHEL more attractive as an edge operating system.

Red Hat’s approach differs sharply from some of its open-source-edge competition, according to McCarthy.

“SUSE creates very specific edge products that will join the portfolio of their standard Linux offerings,” he said. “Red Hat’s approach is different. They’re just building in the features to the core product. It feels a little bit more cohesive.”

One of the other chief selling points of RHEL 9 isn’t a new feature as such, but it marks a departure from the company’s usual practice: Red Hat has gone out of its way to change as little as possible about the basic management tools. Previously, a new release would have a host of new tools for admins to learn, which could be a headache for those working in IT environments that continue to scale out in size and complexity, according to McCarthy.

“Unlike other major releases, this is going to feel familiar,” he said. “Oftentimes, when you go form one major version to another, there’s a learning curve, but [here] they tried to keep the management tools the same as RHEL 8.”

RHEL 9 is available now for download and testing. The company said that it has removed restrictions on RHEL beta access, so even free Red Hat Developer accounts can access the software. Red Hat didn’t include a timeline for an official release.