Where the heck is RHEL6?

Release cycle slowed down

In the past Red Hat has released a new version of its Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) roughly every two years. RHEL5 was released on march 2007. Compared to the past release cycle, RHEL6 is overdue since one year.

Official information

There is only little known about the upcoming features of RHEL6. On the Red Hat Summit 2009, there was a presentation held by Tim Burke which gives just some hints that RHEL6 is actually approaching, see http://www.redhat.com/f/pdf/summit/tburke_1050_rhel_roadmap.pdf. Quoting a note on the slide about RHEL6: Note: this information is high level planning projection and does not constitute formal product commitment.

My conclusion is that Red Hat seems to be unsure about the features planned for its upcoming Enterprise Product.

Another interesting quote from the same presentation is: RHEL6 feature previews – appearing in Fedora 11 & 12. Meanwhile, almost a half year later, Fedora 13 is approaching and still no sign of RHEL6, no schedule, no official feature list. Looking at the feature list if Fedora 13 https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Releases/13/FeatureList, nothing special so far. It seems that the pace of development has been slowed down a bit to put more energy into stabilizing F11/F12 to RHEL6.

Inofficial information

When carefully watching git commit logs and bugzilla entries, there are some small traces of RHEL6.

There is almost no information leaking for the topic. The only valuable unofficial information is from bug #562766 which was reported by a Red Hat employee on 2010-02-08.  This bug states RHEL6 Alpha3!  Quoting a comment from the same employee: Upgrading rhel6.0 kernel to 2.6.32-14.el6 fixes the issue.

this brings me to a wild guess for a release schedule:

  • February 2010: Alpha3
  • March 2010: Beta1
  • April 2010: Beta2
  • May or June 2010: GA [Update: End of June/Early July seems to be more likely, since the Red Hat Summit will be held June 22-25 2010]

My wish list for RHEL6

  • Kernel based on version 2.6.33 instead of 2.6.32 as in Alpha3, since there are a lot of improvements when using RHEL as a VMware ESX guest.
  • Default installation with a smaller footprint
  • Cleanup of insane package dependencies
  • BusLogic drivers included as the vanilla Kernel ships it since years

The question remains

Where the heck is RHEL6? One reason could be that the focus on RHEL6 seems to be virtualization and system management. Since approximately two years, in this domain the pace of the development had increased a lot, maybe too much. Think about KVM, libvirt, virt-manager, o-virt. All of those projects are sponsored by Red Hat and included in F12. So one of the reason of the late release of RHEL6 can be problems in stabilizing those virtualization products to be enterprise-ready.

Why Red Hat makes its customers angry with late releases and no roadmap

First of all, RHEL products have a life-cycle of seven years. RHEL5 was released on march 2007. Assuming RHEL6 will be GA on May 2010. Add a few months before it is supported by ISVs such as SAP, Oracle etc. Customers can begin with deploying RHEL6 on lets say August 2010. Until then, RHEL5 has almost reached half of its life-cycle: 3 1/2 years. Means: A SAP system deployed on July 2010 is out of support some 3 years and nine months later. For an enterprise product this not acceptable! Red Hat should think about a life-cycle like “Next-Release plus five years“, this would make system deployment and company-internal life-cycle management easier.

Keeping its customers in the dark with no official roadmap at all is just bad behavior and indeed not customer friendly.

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