RHEL 7.2 embraces containers

The newest version of RHEL uses containers for system management on top of running container workloads, but Red Hat hasn't forgotten about more conventional needs

RHEL 7.2 embraces containers

Red Hat Enterprise Linux is now in its 7.2 release, and while it offers myriad upgrades, its focus is on using containers.

That seemed inevitable, given that Red Hat's Fedora project and Red Hat Atomic Host explored how both the OS and the workflows on top of it could be rebuilt around containers. RHEL 7.2 makes many of those changes mainstream, but not mandatory. For those who haven't yet made containers a component of how they do IT (or business), there are features aimed at more conventional admin concerns.

With RHEL 7.2, the container focus isn't only adding support for the latest editions of the Docker engine and the Kubernetes orchestration system, although they are included. It's also about how Red Hat delivers software to RHEL systems, where container images can be used to install and manage system apps.

Red Hat's Project Atomic is a way to maintain software for a special edition of RHEL -- Red Hat Linux Atomic Hos, which is Red Hat's answer to the container-centric Linuxes of CoreOS and RancherOS. RHEL 7.2 uses core pieces of Project Atomic, such as the atomic command-line application, to make adding, removing, and maintaining system software as modular as dealing with Docker containers. And admins don't have to know Docker's minutiae to make it happen.

Another container-related Red Hat project, the Container Development Kit, has been updated as well. With it, a developer can build containers for RHEL environments by way of a virtualized instance of Red Hat Atomic on the desktop. This isn't a generic container-development tool -- it's for containerizing apps for one of the recent container-enabled versions of RHEL, or for OpenShift Enterprise.

The rest of 7.2's new features are incremental improvements separate from major technological changes like containers. RHEL 7.2 supports OpenSCAP, which automatically determines if a system is in compliance with common security protocols. Networking has been tweaked for better speed and traffic control, and Red Hat is offering a new software library called the Data Plane Development Kit. With that, developers can perform network virtualization functions at high speed, but with the software to do it running in user space for better protection.

Open source software vendors these days are offering "troubleshooting as a service," where known problems and flagged issues are tracked centrally so the user can have potential issues identified and remedied before they become chronic. In this vein, Red Hat offers Red Hat Insights, although it isn't clear if the scope of the protection it provides includes problems (such as known vulnerabilities) within containers.

With ARM processors gaining in the server market, Red Hat's work on RHEL for ARM also continues. An ARM build of RHEL 7.2 will be available in a development preview edition, expanding on a version originally revealed to partners only back in June.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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