Red Hat Goes Atomic With Container-Centric OS

Red Hat delivered Atomic Host on Thursday, the first version of its Enterprise Linux distribution optimized to deploy and run Linux containers with fully integrated Docker automation and Kubernetes orchestration capabilities.

The Raleigh, N.C., software developer placed container tech front and center in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Atomic Host, paring down the operating system for that single use case, said Lars Herrmann, senior director of product and business strategy at Red Hat.

The lightweight architecture gives enterprises a vehicle for embracing more nimble container architecture "without compromising on things they value like security and uptime," Herrmann said. That, in turn, offers the channel another entry point into one of the most important and disruptive technologies on the market today.

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It's not only developers that are smitten with containers -- among their counterparts in the DevOps world, the love affair is just as strong, Herrmann told CRN. Containers help both sides work together and achieve results, he said.

"There's lot of interest from the developer side because of the abilities it delivers," Herrmann said of Linux containers. "But there's similar excitement from the Ops side of the house, under pressure for some time to be more agile, be more nimble, be more flexible."

Because Atomic Host only retains from its parent -- OS Enterprise Linux 7 -- the minimal footprint needed to run containers, it greatly reduces the amount of maintenance patching the system requires.

NEXT: Atomic Host Key To Red Hat's Strategy

Atomic Host is an important building block in Red Hat's strategy of enabling distributed computing environments and greater application portability between bare-metal servers and public and private clouds, Herrmann told CRN.

The purpose-built OS comes out of the box ready to be deployed on clusters of computing nodes to host multitenant applications. Users just need configure attributes such as networking, identity management and storage.

"In our larger vision, the container host is only one piece," Herrmann told CRN.

The offering wouldn't be complete if it didn't offer system administrators insight into what is happening inside the containers themselves. After all, that's where the action is, and sometimes where serious problems can reside.

The security vulnerabilities seen over the past year, such as Heartbleed, Ghost and Shellshock, also lived inside containers, side-by-side with the intended applications.

To that end, Atomic Host is shipped completely integrated with Red Hat's enterprise subscription service, which can be activated to monitor the integrity and security of the hosted workloads, Herrmann said.

NEXT: Making Docker Enterprise-Ready

Red Hat Atomic Linux also introduces updating functionality inspired by the "atomic" database transaction methodology that allows for easy roll-backs in the event of problems.

Red Hat is the second-largest contributor to the Docker project, focusing much of its attention on the open-source technology's performance attributes, Herrmann told CRN.

"We've done a lot of heavy lifting around making the technology enterprise-ready," he said of Docker.

Atomic Host takes advantage of the Docker engine for deploying applications in distributed containers. But while the new OS incorporates Docker images and other functionality, it's important to understand that containers running on top of a Linux kernel are not defined by Docker, but by the host environment, he said.

Red Hat has also integrated Google's Kubernetes, which the Internet giant open-sourced in the past year, for orchestrating containers in large numbers.

Red Hat has invested heavily in "enhancing and completing Kubernetes to work outside of the Google environment," Herrmann said.

"We would like to establish Kubernetes as the primary standard with the industry," he told CRN.