Red Hat has announced the availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) version 6. This new version of the enterprise Linux distribution includes an updated kernel, new power management and savings tools, and an improved virtualization infrastructure.

RHEL 6 is a significant update, said Jim Totton, general manager and vice president of the platform business unit at Red Hat. The new release includes 85% more software packages than RHEL 5, and it is based on the 2.6.32 Linux kernel, he said.

The move to the 2.6.32 kernel comes shortly after Oracle announced that it would be pushing this same kernel version into its own Unbreakable Linux, which is a copy of Red Hat Linux (CentOS) with the exception of the new kernel. RHEL 6, however, pushes a new kernel with significant modifications from future kernel revisions integrated into it.

Paul Cormier, executive vice president and president of products and technologies at Red Hat, said that kernel version numbers aren’t important anymore, particularly because Red Hat updates older kernels with newer features in order to ensure stability.

“That kernel in RHEL 5.5 was an older kernel, but one of the things our engineers do is make this consumable to the enterprise; we innovate while keeping it stable. Talking about the versions of the components in the release, that’s something we cared about 10 years ago,” he said.

“As IT data centers are consolidating multiple systems down to virtualized servers, RHEL 6 provides the foundation for those deployment models, from physical to virtual to cloud,” said Totton.

While Red Hat is the primary contributor to the open-source Kernel Virtualization Module (KVM), RHEL 6 also supports Xen. New to this edition is the addition of virt-v2v, a tool that can convert virtual machines in other formats to run on KVM.

RHEL 6 also includes updates to the development tool chain. The OS ships with GCC 4.4, and includes updated debugging and monitoring tools. SystemTap 1.1 is among those updated tools, and with this new version, it adds the ability to probe C++ applications with native C++ syntax. RHEL 6 also includes glibc 2.11.

Totton said that RHEL 6 also allows for better control of application performance thanks to the addition of control groups. “This allows for fine-grained resource management of the system,” he said.

“When you have many things running on the RHEL system, you can build policy-based controls around how much of the CPU, how much memory, how much disk and network resources can be given to each application.”