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Red Hat Extends Linux Support

By Sean Kerner (Send Email)
Posted January 31, 2012


Red Hat (NYSE:RHT) is changing the length of time that it supports its flagship Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) operating system platform. Red Hat will now provide standard support of 10 years for RHEL 5 and 6.

Red Hat had previously offered seven years of standard support with an optional Extended Lifecycle Support (ELS) program, first introduced for RHEL 4 that could provide an additional three years of support, or 10 in total.

Jim Totton, GM and VP, platform business unit at Red Hat, explained to InternetNews.com that with the previous ELS model of 7+3, there were three phases of support for RHEL. The first phase is the very active development phase where new features are added, as well hardware support. In the second phase, Red Hat gets more conservative and doesn't make as many feature or hardware changes. In the third and final phase of the seven year cycle, the focus is on security and critical bug fixes, only. ELS provided an additional three years of support, just for the security and critical bug fixes.

"What's different today is that we're now stretching the middle to provide a full 10 years of support," Totton said. "What that means is that there will be additional new hardware support enablement."

As such with the RHEL 5.x platform, the plan is to now have a RHEL 5.9, 5.10 and 5.11 release. Currently, the most recent RHEL release in progress is RHEL 5.8, which is now in its testing phase. The initial RHEL 5.0 release debuted in 2007.

Both RHEL 5 and RHEL 6 will benefit from the new 10 year life span for standard support. RHEL 4 is another story.

"RHEL 4 reaches the end of its seven years next month, so we'll continue the 7+3 model for RHEL 4," Totton said.

Red Hat also has a program introduced in 2008 called Extended Update Support (EUS) which will also be impacted by the new standard support extension. What EUS provides is up to 24 months of support for a specific point release of RHEL. Without EUS, users would need to move to each point release as it is released, over the 10 year support lifecycle.

"For RHEL 5 this means we'll take RHEL 5.6 which had an EUS offering and we'll extend it so it will be available more than 24 months, to beyond the RHEL 5.9 release, which will have next EUS" Totton said.

Totton added that the RHEL 5.9 release will be particularly important because it will support the upcoming new Intel Ivy Bridge chipsets as well as the next round of Intel innovation in 2013. For RHEL 6, which is currently at the 6.2 release, Red Hat is offering EUS for every point release.

Longer Long-Term Support

While the new 10-year standard support lifespace is the maximum available support length for Red Hat customers in most of the world, in Japan there are other options.

"In Japan, we've introduced a program called 'Advanced Mission Critical' and in there we have extended offerings beyond EUS, where customers can lock down for up to six years on a given point release," Totton said. "In that market, we'll also offer RHEL 5.x support out to 2020 using a long life stream on the 5.9 release."

Totton said that the Advanced Mission Critical support offerings are available only in Japan, where they have seen demand for more conservative deployments in places like the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

"While we don't offer that type of support in other regions of the world, we continue to listen carefully to what the market needs, and we'll respond as we get further down the timelines with RHEL 5 and 6." Totton said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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