RHEL 8: Upgraded Security and Performance

By now most of you have heard the buzz that Red Hat released the newest version, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 (RHEL 8). Because RHEL 8 distribution is live externally, we also made sure to include it in our Linux Academy Cloud Playground, so you can start training with it immediately. There’s not much we aren’t excited about with this release.  From advanced containerization to automation in security, RHEL 8 represents a win for businesses and individuals alike.

Containerization and Universal Base Image

In the new distribution, users can expect a heavy emphasis on containers. More specifically, RHEL 8 has implemented Universal Base Image (UBI) to support the libraries and dependencies of containers. This will replace some of the previous images like standard and minimal RHEL base images. This also lends to ease of use for organizations that may not have in-house experts, as they can now manage containerized workflows. It’s also important to note that Docker is not included in RHEL 8, and Red Hat is pushing alternative container-focused tools like Podman, Buildah, Skopeo, and Runc as drop-in replacements.

Upgraded File System and Kernel Version

Another exciting addition to this distribution is the upgrade to a user-based file system, as well as the move to Linux kernel 4.18. In the XFS file system, users can create shared copies that do not use disk I/O, which is quicker and takes up less disk space. This system effectively decouples the file system and volume management. This lets you make better software, at a faster rate because you don’t have dependencies to re-build for each time. The new system helps the user, and also more easily supports new things like updates for disk encryption. Basically, as long as Kernel supports it, you can easily support it through a normal development process.

Speaking of Kernel, let’s dig into what else this newest version is capable of and what it supports. In Kernel 4.18 users can expect an updated I/O memory management unit (IOMMU) code that supports 5-level page tables. The increase in physical memory, from 64TB of memory on RHEL 7, up to 4PB of physical memory in RHEL 8 is a leap that is going to be more important in BigData tools and caching, but still noteworthy. What we’re most interested in, is the actual software management.

YUM Version 4

Continuing the user-centric upgrades, RHEL 8 is now managed by YUM version 4 based on DNF in Fedora. This new version is essentially everything DNF was intended to be, in a package users already like.  Red Hat was able to acknowledge that they were struggling to get users to prefer DNF, so they’ve made YUM v4 as a compromise, and we applaud that.

Red Hat notes that the new version will provide:

  • Increased performance
  • Support for modular content
  • Well-designed stable API for integration with tooling

When installing software, you can use the YUM command options in the same way as on RHEL 7.

Security and Performance

Overall, RHEL 8 offers users a wealth of improved security and performance features. To summarize, here are some noteworthy changes:

  • Upgraded disk encryption to LUKS2 (replacing legacy LUKS1)
  • Upgrades to Kernel and GCC compiler (v8.2)
  • Wayland as the default desktop display server instead of X.org (good or bad depending on who you are, but you will maintain backward compatibility)
  • No version of Python is installed by default, but both versions 2 and 3 can be installed with a simple yum install python2 or yum install python3, which gives more flexibility

Linux Academy and RHEL8

With all these exciting updates, you’re probably wondering how we’re going to implement RHEL 8 into our course structure.  The good news is, we’re already on it!  As mentioned earlier, RHEL 8 is available in the Linux Academy Cloud Playground.  We’re also ensuring that our objectives will match what Red Hat defines here in the coming months. Check out this Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) Prep Course for a great starting point in Red Hat courses and learning paths. The exams themselves will still be available on version 7 for at least the next 6 months, and when you register for an exam Red Hat gives you the option of which version you would prefer to test in.  Have more to add to the conversation, or just interested in what’s to come?  Be sure to join our free online community and slack channel!

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