Red Hat has officially released its stripped-down version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) optimised for running applications inside Linux containers, offering the ability to easily deploy and update applications, as well as tools to orchestrate applications across multiple containers.
Available immediately, RHEL 7 Atomic Host is a direct derivative of the standard RHEL 7, inheriting many of its characteristic and attributes. In fact, Red Hat licensing permits customers to deploy either RHEL 7 or Atomic or a mixture of the two, depending on which best suits their requirements, the firm said.
At the same time as Atomic Host availability, Red Hat is officially releasing the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.1 update, which adds support for IBM's Power Systems, among other enhancements.
Atomic Host is one of several Linux distributions that have been optimised for containers, such as Ubuntu Core or CoreOS. Like those, it has been crafted to have a minimal footprint, as the Container approach to distributing applications is to treat them as self-contained environments that include all the packages and services the specific application depends upon.
"Whereas RHEL typically contains several thousand packages that comprise the operating system, with multiple choices of tools, file systems, process managers, etc, Atomic Host brings that down to several hundred. It offers just the core critical components in a smaller, image-based instance intended to run containers," Red Hat senior director of platform Mark Coggin told V3.
"The key parts of it are the Linux kernel, cgroups for resource management, SE Linux for security, systemd for process management, tuning tools and capabilities geared for containers like Docker and Kubernetes," he added.
Kubernetes enables orchestration of multiple containers across one or more hosts, allowing for cluster management and load balancing, but also enabling composite applications where the functionality is broken up into micro-services running in many different containers, Coggin said.
Another key feature, and one that gives the operating system its name, is the atomic update process that is part of Atomic Host.
"Atomic updating effectively means that you update the operating system image by basically replacing it," Coggin explained. This is intended to make updating a simpler process than operating system updates are at present.
Meanwhile, RHEL 7.1 also includes some of the same enhancements for containers that are in Atomic Host, given the relationship between the two platforms.
Other enhancements include OpenJDK 8, bringing Java 8 support, plus improvements in the support for accessing Windows file and print services and updates to the System Security Services Daemon (SSSD) for user authentication via Active Directory.
RHEL 7.1 will also introduce a version for IBM's Power Systems using little endian coding. This is the first time a production version of Red Hat has supported this capability (a beta was made available in January), and brings it in line with other enterprise Linux distributions available for Power.
The reason for this move is that it makes it easier to port applications between x86 and Power platforms, reflecting the growing importance of Linux in the enterprise but also growing interest in Power Systems for mission-critical applications among some customers.
"We have many customers operating multiple architectures in the data centre that require and have asked us for Power8 support in Red Hat Enterprise Linux for this reason," Coggin said.
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