When it comes to which features get used in which version of its operating systems, Red Hat has generally shown a fair amount of flexibility. That tradition continued this week with the release of a beta of version 6.6 of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) operating system that borrows many of the features that Red Hat initially developed for RHEL 7.
Mark Coggin, senior director, product marketing for the Platform Business Unit at Red Hat, says that the bulk of Ret Hat customers are still running version 6 of RHEL and it may be awhile before they get around to upgrading to RHEL 7. Version 6.6 of RHEL is intended to give those customers access to the advanced features such as kernel locking for increased CPU utilization, support for high-bandwidth network connectivity, improved system administration functionality, additional load balancing functions, and improvement to how RHEL behaves as a virtual guest on virtual machine platform.
Rather than trying to force upgrade to drive revenue, the Red Hat business model is based around providing support from RHEL 4 through 7. Coggin says that in the next year Red Hat will end support for RHEL 4 and will eventually do the same for RHEL 5. But the pace at which customers make the transition to RHEL 6 and 7 is largely left up to the customer.
It’s generally impossible for an IT organization of any size to simultaneously upgrade every instance of an operating system they are a running. More often than not, they wind up trying to manage three or more instances of the same operating system. Add in multiple types of operating systems and the complexity of the IT environment starts to increase by orders of magnitude.
The degree to which vendors can provide a consistent set of features across the multiple versions of their operating systems not only gives IT more control over what to deploy when and where; it serves to help reduce the complexity of the IT environment.
When it comes to operating systems, not every vendor is at a place where it can provide the level of flexibility that most IT organizations would prefer to have. But in the fullness of time, we may even get to the point where the rise in continuous integration and agile development methodologies results in the version number of an operating system in use being a whole lot less relevant than it generally is today.