First beta of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 now available with security updates, new features

The popular enterprise Linux distribution has introduced the first beta of the next major release, bringing updated cryptographic policies and support for OpenSSL 1.1.1 and TLS 1.3.

As the dust settles from the announcement of IBM's pending acquisition of Red Hat, work continues undaunted in delivering new products. This week sees the first beta release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 8, Red Hat's venerable enterprise distribution, which also serves as the basis for CentOS and Oracle Linux. For reference, RHEL is based on Fedora, which just celebrated the release of Fedora 29.

In terms of security, the biggest changes in RHEL 8 are support for OpenSSL 1.1.1 and TLS 1.3, which a press release notes "[enable] server applications on the platform to use the latest standards for cryptographic protection of customer data." Likewise, the new release includes "System-wide Cryptographic Policies" allowing for cryptographic configuration using a unified interface, rather than needing to work with specific applications.

For desktop users, Red Hat has taken the slightly bold move of using Wayland as the default display server for Gnome Display Manager (GDM), though X.Org is still available. The transition to Wayland in Fedora has been uneven up to this point, as NVIDIA continues to ship drivers which are not fully compatible with Wayland, and Wayland does not yet support remote desktop access. Neither of these factors should present issues for enterprise users, as GDM handles primarily the login screen, not user sessions.

SEE: IT pro's guide to working smarter with Linux (Tech Pro Research)

For users of Fedora, one particular difference between the two is the use of YUM 4 rather than DNF for package management. Fundamentally, YUM 4 is based on DNF, and (mostly) preserves backward compatibility with existing scripts, with the higher performance that DNF has already offered for several releases of Fedora. A full explanation of the benefits of DNF over YUM (and therefore, changes between RHEL 7 and 8) is available here.

RHEL 8 also includes support for for open container toolkits, including the Buildah (container imaging/building), Podman (container runtime) and Skopeo (container sharing and finding) utilities, as well as support for the Stratis file system, file system snapshots, and LUKSv2 disk encryption with Network-Bound Disk Encryption (NBDE).

The new release does deprecate some older technologies. By default, Python is not installed, though the default implementation is Python 3.6. Limited support for Python 2.7 exists, though this is for transition purposes, as Python 2 will not be maintained upstream past January 1, 2020, while support for RHEL 8 will continue for several years afterward. For workstation installations, KDE support has been removed. RHEL 7 shipped with KDE 4, which is end of life. Red Hat is not offering KDE Plasma 5, and the upgrade path from KDE on RHEL 7 to GNOME on RHEL 8 is unsupported. Additionally, support for btrfs has been removed.

You can download the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 beta here. A CentOS variant of the beta build is unlikely to be forthcoming, as having one unified beta simplifies bug reporting.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • This is the first beta release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 8, which also serves as the basis for CentOS and Oracle Linux. The initial release of RHEL 7 was in June 2014.
  • RHEL 8 brings support for OpenSSL 1.1.1 and TLS 1.3, as well as container tools Buildah, Podman, and Skopeo, and the Stratis file system, while deprecating Python 2 and removing KDE 4 and btrfs entirely.
Image: Red Hat

About James Sanders

James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on Asia.

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