Red Hat Server Edition 6: Long Life Cycle With Lots to Like
January 17, 2011
RHEL Manageability and Updates
Once registered, yum is a very usable update tool. If you're running a graphical desktop (one of the install options is a development workstation), there's also the graphical package management client pup available. Yum does the job just fine, though.
I tried installing Apache (package httpd) and found it to be a pretty smooth process. Installation doesn't manually start Apache for you (arguably a good idea), but a basic working config is part of the install, and service httpd start (or /etc/init.d/httpd start if like me your fingers are still stuck on that!) will get it going. Again, security-wise this is a good call.
Red Hat 6 features some improvements to SELinux (which will doubtless continue to have both admirers and detractors), in particular sandboxing, which enables the admin to run untrusted apps in their own independent container. It also adds the X Access Control Extension (XACE), which X server internal access controls to be set up.
The System Security Services Daemon (SSSD) is another new feature: It implements centralized identity/authentication management and supports a wide range of identity/auth services (including OpenLDAP, Active Directory, and Kerberos, as well as Red Hat's own Directory Server). This will hopefully make centralized auth and identity provision easier for Red Hat administrations. It's extensible, allowing it to be theoretically future-proofed against whatever the next big thing in authentication protocols turns out to be -- again, evidence that Red Hat is thinking about that 10-year life cycle.
A neat touch is that the default at install is to set up a logical volume for the system, which means you can easily snapshot volumes (using lvcreate) and merge them back in again to the original (reverting any changes since the snapshot). I didn't experiment too much with this, but it could definitely be useful for sys admins.
Overall, RHEL6 is clearly aimed squarely at the enterprise server market. Most of the improvements are server-related rather than desktop, although there are Gnome and KDE upgrades as well. I was a little underimpressed by the install difficulties I ran into -- I really don't expect to have to sort out my Ethernet manually! -- but once it was all up and running, it was a smooth experience. The strong security focus is great for enterprise environments, and the 10-year life cycle is also very impressive, as is the scalability and virtualization support. I'll be interested to see what RHEL7 brings in a few years!
Juliet Kemp has been messing around with Linux systems, for financial reward and otherwise, for about a decade. She is also the author of "Linux System Administration Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach" (Apress, 2009).