These days when a new version of an operating system is released, there's usually not a lot of gee-whiz new whistles and bells to make the front office folks salivate -- especially if it's a point release. But there are still plenty of new features to make DevOps folks happy -- nuts and bolts stuff that makes everybody's life easier.
That's the case with the release earlier this week of Red Hat Enterprise Linux's latest and greatest, RHEL 7.4. It doesn't really do anything new and exciting enough to impress non-techie bosses, but it's loaded with new features that count where it matters.
Let's just hit the high spots.
Security: There are many new security enhancements in this new version, starting with updated audit capabilities to help simplify how administrators filter the events logged by the audit system, gather more information from critical events and to interpret large numbers of records.
There's also USB Guard, a feature that should allow admins to sleep better at night. It allows for greater control over how plug-and-play devices can be used by specific users to help limit both data leaks and data injection.
Also notable is the built-in enhanced container security functionality with full support for using SELinux with OverlayFS, which helps secure the underlying file system and provides the ability to use docker and namespaces together for fine-grained access control.
Performance: New performance features start with NVMe Over Fabric Support for increased flexibility and reduced overhead when accessing high performance NVMe storage devices located in the data center on both Ethernet or Infiniband fabric infrastructures.
There are also performance enhancements for when RHEL is deployed on public clouds. These include decreased boot times and support for the Elastic Network Adapter on Amazon Web Services to enable new network capabilities.
Containers: RHEL Atomic Host is a lightweight operating system based on RHEL that's optimized to run Linux containers, and it's included in RHEL 7.4.
Atomic Host offers integrated support for SELinux and OverlayFS, as well as full support for the overlay2 storage graph driver, for improved security without sacrificing performance.
It also offers full support for package layering with rpm-ostree. This provides the ability to add packages, like monitoring agents and drivers, to the host operating system.
In addition, Atomic Host offers LiveFS as a Technology Preview, which makes it possible to install security updates and layer packages without a reboot.
Management and automation: With data center footprints spanning everything from bare-metal to the cloud, controlling IT environments continues to become more complex. In addition to Red Hat Satellite and Ansible Tower, RHEL 7.4 introduces Red Hat Enterprise Linux System Roles as another Technology Preview, which enables an automated workflow via Ansible automation to be created once and used across large, heterogeneous RHEL deployments without additional modifications.
Multiple architectures: RHEL 7.4 supports about any hardware architecture that might be found in any data center. Supported architectures include IBM Power, IBM z Systems and 64-bit ARM (as a Development Preview). For the IBM Power Little Endian architecture, this release enables support for the High Availability and Resilient Storage Add-Ons as well as the Open Container Initiative (OCI) runtime and image format.
All of these new features come, of course, on a rock solid operating system that in many ways sets the bar for enterprise Linux.