Last year, Red Hat rolled out its Software Collections, allowing users of Red Hat Enterprise Linux to run late-revision versions of popular software packages without sacrificing support or stability.
Now comes version 1.2 of the collection, but its big selling point isn't the bundling of the latest versions of the Nginx Web server or the Maven Java build-automation system, although it has both. More significant, the software in the collection is now offered in parallel for developers, via the Docker containerization system.
Software Collections was devised to give Red Hat users access to software that changes much more rapidly than Red Hat Enterprise Linux itself. Admins for a given RHEL install might want to stay with the same kernel for a while to guarantee predictable behavior and stability, but keeping the same revision of PHP or Nginx for the lifecycle of the OS makes little sense.
Version 1.2 includes the usual collection of popular languages and frameworks: PHP 5.4.16 and 5.5.6, Python 2.7.5 and 3.3.2, Ruby on Rails 4.02, Node.js 0.10 (as a technology preview), and database technologies like MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB.
New additions to the collection include Maven 3.0, the Java build-automation tool; Nginx 1.6, the Web server fast gaining ground against the industry-standard Apache Httpd; and an aggregation of developer tools such as GCC and the Eclipse IDE, ganged together as Red Hat Developer Toolset 3.
Raising eyebrows, Red Hat is gathering many popular software collections as Dockerfiles to "[help] developers to rapidly build and deploy containerized applications."
In other words, the Dockerfiles aren't intended to substitute for the conventional RPM package deployment method. Rather, it's aimed at developers who are creating containerized applications and want to build with versions of apps in sync with their Software Collections counterparts.
However, Red Hat may not be shying away from using Docker as a standardized software delivery system in the long run. The company has been leaning in that direction, by way of its deepening integration with Docker into RHEL and the creation of Project Atomic, a reworking of RHEL around containers reminiscent of projects like CoreOS. The next version of Software Collections might not be deployed as containers, but Red Hat appears to have taken the first steps in that direction.