RedHat 7.4 Release for Power Systems

September 14th, 2017

Ron Gordon
Director – Power Systems

In August 2017, RedHat released RedHat Enterprise Linux 7.4 and its support for Power Systems. This release, while still at the 3.10 kernel level, has new features and add-ons that will provide both more support that customers have been asking for, as well as support of the September 2016 Redhat and IBM press release. The press release, in short, says that IBM and RedHat will cooperate in making Power Systems, RedHat functionality and application support to be more consistent between platforms (http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/50552.wss). This means that customers running the RedHat environment on x86 will have the same capabilities on both Power and x86 systems. This is a tremendous step forward, in that customers can have Linux clusters with the same functionality, and not have to design different implementations, for x86 and Power, as an example. Now, customers can have a single RedHat environment (RH Network, Satellite, HA, DR, SR, containers, etc.). They can now choose the platform best suited to the applications and have a consistent system architecture.

I see two major reasons why this is important to Power Systems users who are investing in Power Linux with RedHat Enterprise Linux. First, Power Systems is best suited for mission critical and high-performance applications. But, without a major player in high availability and disaster recovery, the mission critical applications have a functional gap on how to maintain resiliency. Now, that gap is closed, and an end-to-end architecture for mission critical applications is available on Power Linux. Second, customers who wanted to use Power for its reliability, capacity and performance can now include the platform in a consistent Linux architectural definition, as well as share the same skills and product solutions equally on POWER and x86.

While the IBM and RedHat plan for consistency in offerings may not yet be 100% (the press release says “over time”), the following was recently announced and is available to tighten the consistency between x86 and Power Systems, as well as provide new capabilities:

  1. RedHat has added additional exploitation of the latest hardware innovation in POWER8, such as SMT8 and support of the new PowerVM features.
  2. RedHat Enterprise Linux High Availability Add-on will provide continuous availability by ensuring no single point of failure across the RHEL environment.
  3. Resilient Storage Add-on will enable users to access the same storage device over a network using either shared storage or a clustered file system.
  4. RedHat Container Runtime enables the packaging of applications and their necessary components to simplify development and for faster delivery.
  5. Disaster Recovery Subscription option includes warm standby servers that are turned on periodically to receiver backup data and updates from RedHat.
  6. RedHat offers new 5-year subscription options with RedHat support (IBM SupportLine is still limited to 3-year support).

There are minor points to be considered and more information in the RedHat release notes (https://access.redhat.com/documentation/en-US/Red_Hat_Enterprise_Linux/7/html/7.4_Release_Notes/pref-Release_Notes-Preface.html).

While the RedHat 7.4 release supports both BE and LE, it should be noted that the add-ons are only available for POWER8 LE systems. I believe, as future product add-ons are introduced, they will still only be available for POWER8 LE systems. In the announcement letter, IBM states that it does not intend to offer RedHat Enterprise Linux 7 for BE on future generations of IBM Power Systems.

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