Fedora, Red Hat, RHEL 7, & Open Source. (Or: How RHEL 7 is literally “Beefy.”)

Many of you probably noticed (or were gleefully anticipating) the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 today. Which means it’s a really super day to be a Red Hat employee — seeing the culmination of so much open source work come together as the next major version of our flagship product is pretty inspiring.

Of course, I have a unique perspective on this process, having been the Fedora Program Manager (aka: schedule wrangler) and Fedora Project Leader over the Fedora 15 – Fedora 20 time frame, and RHEL 7 is largely based on Fedora 19, with bits of 20 pulled in as well. So much of what I’m reading today about the features and capabilities of RHEL 7 is very much a reminder of many points in those release cycles, and the effort and sweat the Fedora Project community put into that work. (And in some cases, blood and tears as well. Well, maybe not blood. But probably hot dogs.)

To give a bit more insight into this process, without truly taking you down the rabbit hole, here’s the short version of how Fedora integrates technologies, and serves as the upstream for Red Hat Enterprise Linux:

  • Hundreds of upstream project communities are working every day to improve their own code bases. At certain points determined by those communities, they release versions of their projects.
  • Fedora Project community members, who are often also involved with those upstream communities, will work to integrate new projects and updated releases of existing projects into its distribution, Fedora; and in fact, the inspiration to create new, innovative technologies in the Linux distribution space often evolves out of the community as well. Fedora is released approximately every 6 months, and strives to have the latest-and-greatest versions of those projects available. This makes for a fast-paced, cutting-edge distribution that offers a view into innovations that many folks have not otherwise tried.
  • Every few years, Red Hat Enterprise Linux will take a snapshot of Fedora at a time when they feel it has evolved a feature set that is compelling and rich in new capabilities that the market is ready for, and will shape that over time into a major release of RHEL.  In today’s case – RHEL 7.

I thought it would be fun to look back over the past several releases of Fedora and take a look at some of the most innovative features that were developed and integrated into Fedora over that time period which have now made their way into RHEL 7.

  • systemd (introduced in Fedora 15) – “a system and session manager for Linux, compatible with SysV and LSB init scripts,” to quote the project page itself. The project has continued to innovate since that point, introducing additional enhancements in subsequent releases, such as these in Fedora 19:
  • USB network redirection (Fedora 16) – the ability to redirect a USB device to another machine on a network. Most notably useful for connecting a USB device from one machine to another inside a qemu-kvm virtual machine.
  • Anaconda, the installer, got a major facelift in the form of a new UI (Fedora 18), and enhancements “under the hood” also enable easier integration of new storage technologies  in the future into the installation experience.
  • Storage management enhancements, including a command line utility, and library (libStorageManagement) that provides an open source storage API for storage area networks and network attached storage (introduced in Fedora 18.)
  • Virt improvements everywhere. Including:
    • virtio-rng (Fedora 19), making entropy available from the host to guests, preventing entropy starvation
    • Live VM migration without shared storage (Fedora 19), doing… well, just that. Eliminating the need for shared storage in a live VM migration.
  • High Availability & cluster changes and improvements, including the move from rgmanager to Pacemaker (Fedora 17).
  • Firewalld became the new firewall solution in Fedora 18, enabling firewall changes to be applied without rebooting (among many other features).

And that, my friends, is quite literally the tip of the iceberg. Over the course of Fedora 14, 15, 16, 1718, and 19, more than 250 features, upgrades, or significant changes (such as defaults) were made to packages in Fedora.  And as a result – features you’ll find in RHEL 7 have largely already received thorough testing and use, and are very much ready for prime-time, enterprise usage. (Which is why, as noted in the blog post title, RHEL 7 is Beefy — as “Beefy Miracle” was the release name of Fedora 17. I suppose the most accurate way to put it would really be to say that RHEL 7 has partial Beefy content.)

While not all of the changes or features made Fedora have made their way into RHEL 7, a significant portions of those that have are documented in the RHEL 7 Release Notes. And for those that didn’t, many of them have been made available through Fedora’s EPEL (Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux) repositories, thanks to the awesome Fedora Project community members who do this work.

So if you see someone playing with RHEL 7 today and they look a bit overwhelmed at all the newness, give them this tip: There may be a lot of new in RHEL 7, but Fedora is already building the future of RHEL 8, *right now* – so if they want to get a leg up on the next major release, or if they want to influence what that next release looks like, Fedora is the place to do it.

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