GCN LAB REVIEW

First look: Red Hat 6 built for the long haul

Beta of new enterprise OS has strong support for virtualization, and users who aren't Linux-savvy

Toward the end of June, Red Hat plans to release the second beta to the much-anticipated Red Hat 6.0. We recently had the opportunity to test the initial beta of Red Hat 6.0 and found the improvements encouraging, to say the least.

According to Gunnar Hellekson, chief technology strategist for Red Hat U.S. Public Sector, the advancements in Red Hat 6.0 are intended to be “supportable for an entire seven-year life cycle.” And in our analysis it seems as though Red Hat has thought of just about everything necessary to produce an operating system that can withstand the test of time.

Some new features for the less Linux-savvy users in your agency include the ability to place them in a “Kiosk” environment where they can have restricted access to a full version of the desktop OS. This feature is ideal for schools or public libraries, where you don’t want users to have access to the hard drive or system memory, but are permitted basic software access such as Internet or printer support. It gives them all the support they need without any of the danger.

In practice, we were able to do everything basic, such as printing and Web browsing, just fine. In fact, this might be a good way to deploy an OS in agencies where workers only do specific tasks, instead of trying to control it by other more complex means such as via firewalls.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 continues Red Hat’s move toward fully integrated virtualization, with a range of new features that improve scalability, which translates to additional memory and CPU allocated to guests and the ability to add more guests and servers.

Another important advancement in this new version is the ability for the OS to manipulate the power usage of applications. These features are capable through the use of a tickles kernel, which enables timer interrupts. If applications are not using the CPU, the computer can basically go idle until an application needs it. This creates cooler-running CPUs, and reduces the overall power consumption. When tested on a laptop PC, we found that it did indeed run cooler with these features enabled, especially when using only a couple programs with everything else sitting idle.

Lastly, Red Hat 6.0 will offer useful new security features like Svirt, which by default comes enabled. Svirt is similar to a sandbox guard that keeps any virtual guest from peeking into the sandbox or environment of another guest. Essentially, all virtual guests on the system are contained and isolated from both the core system processes and each other.

Installing the beta was a cinch and the improvements to the performance of my test PC were immediate. We’re looking forward to the final product later this year, when GCN will do a more in-depth review and analysis.

About the Author

Carlos A. Soto is a former GCN Lab technology analyst.

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