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Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) Product Life Cycle

Posted on August 30, 2018 by RobMartiRobMarti

Howdy from Texas, y’all! My name is Rob Marti and I’ve been a System Administrator for around 13 years and in the IT industry for over 20 years. I’ve worked for small businesses, large organizations, and universities. I’ve worked with 10k+ node HPC clusters, 13k+ node Linux server farms, and almost everything in between. For the vast majority of my career in IT, I have been working with Red Hat software including RHEL, Red Hat Cluster Suite, and Red Hat Satellite.
As all Sys Admins know, software is constantly being updated and changed, and older versions are eventually phased out and vendors stop providing support. In order to keep our systems running smoothly, Sys Admins need to be aware of product life cycles.
The product lifecycle of most software typically includes 3-4 phases such as Full Support, Maintenance, and End of Life (EOL). The definition and level of support offered by vendors during each of these phases vary from product to product. However, EOL has a fairly standard meaning and a fairly major impact on multiple levels from Sys Admin all the way to end user.
So what does EOL mean in the technology industry? Typically it refers to the date that a specific product no longer receives support from the company that released it; in other words, the product has reached the end of its useful life. The anticipated EOL date is often published when the product is released along with details explaining the levels of support that will be offered during the various phases of the product’s lifecycle.
Today I will be talking about software giant Red Hat’s product lifecycle. The figure below illustrates the phases specific to RHEL.

Figure 1: RHEL Life Cycle

RHEL is on a 10-year life cycle. Each phase offers slightly less support than the one before it. The 10-year life cycle allows businesses to make long-term plans and decisions.
The first phase, Full Support (FS), is exactly that; it includes everything from bug fixes to security errata to new feature rollouts. During FS, access to all previous content is available and Sys Admins are able to turn to the vendor for help on just about anything such as troubleshooting, downloading additional software, and upgraded hardware support.
The second phase starts about five and a half years from release and is called Maintenance Support 1 (MS1). During this phase, new features are unlikely to appear but bug fixes and security errata are still provided. New hardware support begins to phase out and is typically only added if the driver change requirements are low. Maintenance Support 2 (MS2) starts a year after MS1 and during this phase, there is essentially no new hardware support. MS2 lasts through the end of the 10-year cycle.
But what happens after that? {Does the server implode? Is it time for the Sys Admin to retire?}
In a large Enterprise environment, it is not always feasible to have systems replaced before a product life cycle ends. In light of this, Red Hat offers another product called Extended Lifecycle Support (ELS) for RHEL. ELS allows you to continue to get Critical and Important Security errata as well as limited bug fixes.
What happens if a piece of vendor software must run on an older version of RHEL? Red Hat offers a product called Extended Update Support (EUS) that provides errata that has been tested against a specific minor release and will apply there. Without EUS the errata are only tested against the latest versions of all packages.
Despite the decade-long life cycle, it is challenging for organizations and their Sys Admins to keep their systems running smoothly through varying and non-aligned product life cycles. Fortunately, Linux Academy offers training on the rapidly changing technological landscape that allows organizations to run more efficiently and effectively and avoid the nasty pitfalls that can accompany the EOL phase.

If this is something you’re interested in, check out our Linux Foundation Certified Systems Engineer (LFCSE) course. Hope to see you there!



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