The announcement itself was anti-climatic. Everyone in Linux circles knew that RHEL 6 was coming. What I did find interesting--as customer after customer and partner after partner said how wonderful RHEL was and Red Hat Red Hat EVP Paul Cormier showed how the server operating system market has become a battle between RHEL and Windows-was how utterly mainstream Linux has become.
Solaris is done. The other versions of Unix now live in niches. The other Linux distributions, such as Novell's SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) and feisty newcomers such as Ubuntu are fighting it out for second place.
Linux is no longer a revolution. It is no longer the outsider wanting into the business market. Linux, in particular, RHEL, is at business' heart. As Cormier said, "It's no longer about who has the newest kernel, our customers are beyond that."
Exactly. I see Red Hat's announcement as a graduation ceremony. Yes, the technology is important, but what's even more important now is Red Hat, the business, Red Hat, the brand.
As for RHEL 6 itself, yes there are many advances. What I see as the big change here is that Red Hat is pushing RHEL not just as the standalone server operating system we've known it as for years, but as the business operating system for both virtualization and the cloud.
That's not to say that Red Hat will be ignoring bare-metal servers. You'll still be able to run RHEL on everything from re-purposed desktops serving as servers to blade and rack servers with symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) 4-CPU quad-core processors to mainframes. But, if you want to, and Red Hat hopes you will, you'll use RHEL on virtual systems. During the press conference Red Hat claimed that RHEL virtualized guests can reach 85%-90% of the performance of running on native hardware. To do this, Red Hat uses Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM). Red Hat also hopes you use RHEL 6 in cloud computing deployments. Whether customers want to use a private cloud inside their data centers or use RHEL on Amazon's Elastic Computing Cloud.
Another point that Red Hat makes is that RHEL is that they've gone to great trouble to make RHEL as power-efficient as possible. RHEL 6, the company claims, will use 40% less electricity. That may not sound that important to you, but, ask your local data center director how he would feel about cutting his electrical bill by 40%. This is a big deal.
Is this exciting news? If you're a cutting edge technology person, no, it's not. But, Red Hat, and indeed Linux, is no longer about revolution, it's about getting more from less with Linux. RHEL has become the establishment. The Linux dream of being taken seriously, of being important, has happened. It may not be as much fun as being on the outside looking in, but it will be more profitable.