Red Hat Tackles Telco Cloud With Linux Upgrade

Mitch Wagner
News Analysis
Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading
5/7/2019



Red Hat is updating its flagship Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system with new tools for automated operations and container support. The upgrades can help service providers to "cloudify" their networks, the company said Tuesday.

Linux is a foundational technology for telco clouds, running on white box switches and virtualized customer premises equipment (vCPE), and providing the foundation for virtual network function (VNF) operations. And modern networks require automation to meet operational and customer requirements; that demand will only increase with the emergence of 5G.

"As service providers know, Linux today is mostly operated by robots and automation," Gunnar Hellekson, senior director of product management at Red Hat Enterprise Linux, tells Light Reading. Version 8 of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (spelled out as RHEL -- hipsters pronounce it "rell") includes support for a variety of automation and containerization tools to meet those needs.

The update comes as Red Hat nears a pending $34 billion acquisition by IBM, which IBM says will close in the second half of 2019.

RHEL 8 supports a capability called System Roles, based on Ansible, which Red Hat purchased four years ago. System Roles provides a set of APIs that an operator can use to automate systems administration tasks, consistent across different versions, to streamline and simplify operations.

Additional upgrades include:

  • RHEL now gains automated support from the vendor, using Red Hat Insights. This helps proactively identify and remediate IT issues, including security vulnerabilities and stability problems, using predictive analytics to help administrators avoid glitches and unplanned downtime in production environments.

  • The new Image Builder allows operators to create a single consistent "gold image" RHEL configuration and deploy it on any footprint Red Hat supports, whether on premises or the cloud. Today, that deployment is mostly done by hand.

  • RHEL is working with OpenShift, Red Hat's Kubernetes platform, for improved support for lighter weight container management tools: Buildah, for building containers; Podman, for running containers; and skopeo, for finding and sharing container images.

  • Red Hat introduced Application Streams, to let operators control the pacing of updates to languages, development frameworks and developer tools. Operators can get the latest upgrades quickly during the development process, and then slow down the upgrade cycle in production when stability is more important than the latest features.

  • Additionally, RHEL gets improved support for virtual network functions (VNF) and NFV, with network performance optimization and accelerator hardware.


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  • And Red Hat introduced Universal Base Image, a new program to allow application developers to distribute RHEL binaries as components of containerized applications. Users with support contracts from Red Hat can get support for the OS binaries directly from Red Hat; users without those contracts can still use the binaries but they are on their own for support. This option is designed to streamline development and deployment of containerized applications.

    Why this matters
    RHEL is popular with operators and enterprises because of its maturity (it's been around 15 years) and wide platform support -- "any workload running on any environment," is how Red Hat describes it. RHEL runs on-premises or off-premises; on physical or virtual servers; on x86, ARM, Power architecture and NVIDIA processors; and in the private or public cloud, and it runs consistently in all those places, so operators don't have to invest in alternative software and retraining.

    RHEL is foundational to network virtualization, containerized network apps and NFV, which are essential to providing the agility, scalability and reduced capex and opex required for 5G. The new upgrades will help facilitate those ends.

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