Red Hat has released version 9.2 of its enterprise Linux distro, which is free for existing customers with current contracts. As usual, there are a load of recompiled rebuilds to choose from as well.
RHEL 9.2 is the latest biannual update to IBM’s enterprise Linux distribution. It’s a minor point upgrade, bringing various subcomponents to slightly more recent versions.
The company has a “technical blog post” about the improvements in this version, but for us, it’s a bit light on detail. There was more info in the announcement of the beta, back in March. The big new feature seems to be an optional special kernel for Arm64 servers that uses a 64kB page size, up from the 4kB default. Although this means less efficient memory allocation, it may improve performance for servers working on very large, contiguous data sets.
RHEL 9.2 also brings some additional system roles to Red Hat’s Ansible tool for automating server deployments. There are various new roles in this version:
podman for running the eponymous rootless container daemon,
ad_integration for integrating with Microsoft’s Active Directory, and others with more self-explanatory names, such as
The official upstream RHEL 9.2 dropped on May 10. Coming very close behind the release of RHEL itself were the various external projects which rebuild Red Hat’s source code to produce binary-compatible distributions of their own.
Of the well-known rebuilds, AlmaLinux followed closest, with its 9.2 release the same day. The less well-known Polish rebuild, EuroLinux, put out its 9.2 release on May 11. Rocky Linux 9.2 lagged by nearly a week, releasing its build on May 16. Last, but the biggest name, was Oracle, which emitted Oracle Linux 9.2 on May 18.
If you are keen to know the specific component versions, we recommend the release notes from AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux.
In terms of release cycles, the Alma Linux project has a handy comparison page which covers a number of the usual suspects. Although the release intervals they give were for the 8.7 release, the timings look about right to us. As you might expect, Alma itself by far looks the best here, but if rapidity is the goal, that seems justified.
Oracle Linux only offers downloads for x86-64 and Arm64. EuroLinux offers the server distro on x86-64 and Arm64, plus a GNOME desktop version for x86-64 only. Rocky Linux offers four architectures, and separate “boot,” “minimal” and “DVD” images, plus cloud images for AWS in multiple regions. It also offers an assortment of alternative images with various desktops: GNOME, GNOME Lite, KDE, Xfce, MATE, and Cinnamon, plus Raspberry Pi media and OpenStack images for its four supported architectures.
AlmaLinux seems to have the widest range of available downloads, with the same four architectures as Rocky: x86-64, Arm64, PPC64LE and S390X, plus cloud images for Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, OpenNebula and Oracle Cloud, plus Docker images, Vagrant boxes, LXC/LXD images, and an image to run under WSL. It has fewer desktop options than Rocky, with just GNOME, GNOME Mini, KDE and Xfce, but it directly supports more virtualization tools.
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Rocky scores a win in integration and testing, though, having held back its PPC64LE edition because of a bug it has uncovered in Python 3.9, which causes various programs to crash. Its announcement notes:
With what we suspect is some pride in the next paragraph:
This is an interesting point of difference, and overall, the options here signal the slightly different approaches of the different projects. All of them are intended to be bug-for-bug compatible with RHEL. Oracle is the only one with a big company behind it, and Oracle is unique in offering its own kernel build, the Oracle Enterprise Kernel, which offers Btrfs as well as slightly newer versions: currently, the Red Hat Compatible Kernel (RHCK) is on 5.14, while UEK7 update 1 is on 5.15.
AlmaLinux is the quickest to release, and has by some margin the widest range of images for almost every hypervisor and public cloud platform there is. Rocky Linux, by contrast, is consistently slower to release, but the POWER bug that the project has caught this time certainly makes a good case for the thoroughness of its testing. Meanwhile, EuroLinux has the advantage for European customers of simply not being American, such as being in a much closer time zone.
Red Hat’s replacement of CentOS Linux with CentOS Stream has certainly benefited the third-party ecosystem. It is interesting to watch the different rebuilds start to go their own ways, especially in identifying issues, where Rocky has distinguished itself in this release. ®
Users of Arm hardware with exceptionally long memories may recall that memory page sizes have been an issue from the first ARM2 machines that shipped, as the RISC OS documentation still reflects.
As its memory controller, MEMC1A, could only handle a maximum of 4MB of RAM, machines which needed more, such as the flagship Acorn A540 that could run Acorn’s RISCiX Unix, needed multiple MEMC chips, one for each 4MB of RAM. This resulted in a page size of 32kB, which Personal Computer World magazine criticized [PDF] at the time.
A third of a century later, the same processor families mainly run Unix-like systems, and a page size of twice that is a performance optimization. Look out for the return of iconic 1990 looks such as check shirts and dresses over jeans.