At last, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9.0 slips out

First major release since IBM spent $34b buying distro giant, includes kernel 5.14, systemd 249, Python 3.9 and more


Red Hat Summit Red Hat has officially lifted the lid on version 9 of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), code-named Plow, the latest major version of the dominant paid-for, commercial server Linux.

This release aims to roll out features and functionality without being too different from its older siblings. The IBM subsidiary said it expected the platform would become generally available in the "coming weeks."

Version 9 represents a number of firsts. It's the first major release since IBM's acquisition of Red Hat concluded in July 2019 – RHEL 8.0 came out two months before. It's also the first major version of the enterprise distribution since Red Hat redefined its free enterprise distro CentOS as being upstream of RHEL rather than a rebuild of it.

The Reg looked at the beta last year. This release is based on Fedora 34, which we covered in March last year. That means several significant changes for desktop users, including GNOME 40, which should run on Wayland by default, the Pipewire audio server, and incremental updates to Flatpak packages.

The release uses kernel 5.14, systemd 249, Python 3.9, PHP 8, and GCC 11.2. It includes a web console based on the Cockpit project, and this now supports live patching of the running kernel using the kpatch tool. There's also a container-management toolbox, based on the upstream toolbx project.

As we noted when looking at Linux app packaging last year, Flatpak remains a primarily desktop-centric format, unlike Ubuntu's Snap format which is aimed at both desktop and server, in our view. As most RHEL 9 deployments will probably be on servers, containers will be more significant for app deployment. The new version has significant changes to container handling, including cgroups version 2 and the use of crun as the default container runtime.

RHEL is a relatively slow-moving, technologically conservative distro. As with any long-term supported distro, this can cause issues when you need newer versions of core components.

Red Hat's solution to this is what it calls Application Streams, which allows specific versions of components of the OS to be installed along with their various dependencies. These receive more frequent updates than the underlying core OS, although that can mean shorter supported lifetimes.

Pricing starts at $179 for the workstation edition, if you can live without support, and $299 with one year of support. The most basic server edition starts at $349 without support, $799 with a year of standard (business hours) support, and $1,299 for premium (24×7) support for severity 1 and 2 cases.

Assuming that Red Hat follows the existing life cycle, RHEL 9.0 will receive full support for the next five years, taking it up to mid-2027, followed by a further five years of "maintenance" support – meaning no new features and limited additional support for new hardware. ®


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