August 18, 2017

The Fedora project is an instance of Linux Red Hat employs to give IT organizations early access to new technologies the company might employ in future distributions of Linux. In the latest beta release of Fedora, Red Hat has made available an update to a lightweight instance of Linux, dubbed Fedora 26 Atomic Host, that features an instance of the Kubernetes container orchestration platform running as a container, as well as a new class of Systems Containers that makes it easier to install infrastructure software on the platform.

Red Hat also updated the instances of Docker it provides within Fedora Atomic Host, in addition to improving system support and workload monitoring tools.

Previous versions of Fedora Atomic Host have provided support for Kubernetes binaries. Matthew Miller, project leader for Fedora, says making Kubernetes available as a container will make it easier for IT organizations to deploy multiple instances of Kubernetes. Given the relative maturity of Kubernetes, the container orchestration platform is frequently upgraded, which often creates a scenario in which DevOps teams employ multiple releases of Kubernetes.

While Red Hat clearly dominates when it comes to Linux deployments in the enterprise, the rise of Docker has created an opportunity for rivals to challenge the company. Docker containers come with all the system software required to run an application. As such, most Docker container applications only need a lightweight instance of an operating system to run. In many cases, the decision concerning what operating system to employ is often made by developers rather than internal IT operations teams that might have chosen to standardize on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

With this latest release of Fedora, Red Hat is extending its bet on Kubernetes. The company already embeds Kubernetes in its OpenShift platform-as-a-service environment. Its primary strategy is to provide access to container technologies such as Docker and Kubernetes at a level of abstraction that eliminates the need for separate tools to manage those technologies from rivals such as Docker Inc.

It’s unclear to what degree lightweight instances of Linux running Docker containers will replace larger distributions. Besides consuming less IT infrastructure, lighter-weight distributions of operating systems are simpler to manage and reduce the overall size of any potential attack surface the cybercriminals might try to exploit.

But the for foreseeable future Miller believes IT organizations should expect to manage a polyglot world of IT because different classes of application workloads will require different types of operating systems. In fact, this latest beta of Fedora includes an update to the Dandified Yum (DNF) package manager, which automates the installation of software packages on Fedora.

The challenge facing IT operations teams is finding a way to support all the varied instances of operating systems that are appearing across the enterprise. In addition to contending with multiple versions of Linux and Windows, there are now lightweight versions of each major operating system optimized for containers. In fact, like it or not, the day when IT operating teams could enforce an operating system standard may have finally come to an end.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.