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Everything to Know About Red Hat Enterprise Linux

With 90% of all fortune 500 companies using Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), it has grown to become one of the most recognizable linux distros out there. Known for its reliability & support, RHEL provides a stable and secure platform for businesses to run their critical applications and workloads.

Before we get started, here’s a brief timeline of some of the major events within the Red Hat ecosystem

  • 1993: Marc Ewing creates a Linux distribution called "Red Hat Linux," named after his favorite Cornell University lacrosse team.
  • 1994: Ewing teams up with Bob Young to form Red Hat Software, with the goal of commercializing Red Hat Linux.1995: Red Hat Linux 2.0 is released, becoming one of the first Linux distributions to include the RPM package management system.
  • 1994: Ewing teams up with Bob Young to form Red Hat Software, with the goal of commercializing Red Hat Linux.1995: Red Hat Linux 2.0 is released, becoming one of the first Linux distributions to include the RPM package management system.
  • 1997: Red Hat goes public with an initial public offering (IPO) on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
  • 1999: Red Hat Linux 6.0 is released, introducing the GNOME desktop environment.
  • 2000: Red Hat acquires Cygnus Solutions, a company specializing in development tools for Linux and other open-source software.
  • 2003: Red Hat announces that it will discontinue development of Red Hat Linux in favor of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 3.0, Red Hat’s new commercial linux offering, and Fedora, an open-source community that develops and maintains the Fedora distribution.
  • 2010: Red Hat acquires the virtualization company Qumranet, and begins developing the KVM hypervisor as part of its virtualization offering.
  • 2012: Red Hat becomes the first billion-dollar open-source company, with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion.2014: Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.0 is released, introducing support for containers and other new features.
  • 2019: Red Hat is acquired by IBM for $34 billion, becoming a subsidiary of IBM.

It can get quite confusing sometimes understanding the key differences between Red Hat, Red Hat Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Fedora. With that being said, in this article, we will be covering everything you need to know about the Red Hat ecosystem. Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

  1. The Birth of Red Hat 
  2. Red Hat Linux
  3. Red Hat Enterprise Linux
  4. The Fedora Project
  5. The Legacy of Red Hat on the Linux World
  6. RHEL Today
  7. How Can Help

The Birth of Red Hat

Founded in 1993, Red Hat is the software company behind Red Hat Linux & RHEL. It is known for its open-source software solutions and has grown to become a leading provider for cloud computing, storage, middleware, and virtualization technologies. 

Becoming a major contributor to many open-source projects, including the Linux kernel & GNOME desktop environment, Red Hat as a company  is committed to the following principles

  • Freedom: Open source depends on a free exchange of opinions, ideas, and expertise. Freedom fuels our growth and propels progress.
  • Accountability: When we hold ourselves accountable to our customers, shareholders, and communities, we are working and creating in the open. Any other way, there is no real freedom.
  • Courage: Exercising freedom takes courage and costs something because trusting in freedom is a frequent challenge.
  • Commitment: Commitment means staying fixed on our goals, believing in our approach, trusting one another, and seeing innovation through to the end.

In 2019, Red Hat was acquired by IBM, but continues to operate as a separate business unit within IBM.

The key takeaway with Red Hat is that it paved the way for the future of the ecosystem through their very first project, Red Hat Linux.


Red Hat Linux

Architecture 32-bit, 64-bit, x86, Alpha, SPARC, PowerPC (pretty much anything!)
Package Manager Red Hat Package Manager (RPM)
Release Cycle Fixed
Latest Version Red Hat Linux 9 (March 2003)
Discontinued 2004
Replaced by Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)

Considered the godfather of the Red Hat world, Red Hat Linux was an open-source operating system that was released in 1993. Originally designed to be an alternative to proprietary Unix operating systems, Red Hat Linux quickly gained popularity and became one of the most widely used Linux distributions in the world. It featured a variety of desktop environments and tools for developers, and it was known for its reliability and stability.

Some key features of the original Red Hat Linux:

  • Fixed Release Cycles: Red Hat Linux had a fixed release cycle of about 12-18 months.
  • Installable Packages: Red Hat Linux used the RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) format for its installable packages, which is still used in Fedora and RHEL today.
  • Desktop Environment: Red Hat Linux had a different default desktop environment than Fedora and RHEL. It used a customized version of the GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) desktop environment that was specific to Red Hat Linux. Today, Fedora and RHEL both use the standard GNOME desktop environment with minor customizations.

In 2003, Red Hat Software announced that it would discontinue the Red Hat Linux product line and instead focus on its Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) product. Today, RHEL continues to be a popular choice for enterprise-level users and developers who need a reliable and secure Linux distribution.


Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)

Architecture 32-bit & 64-bit (RHEL 8 & on: 64-bit only)
Package Manager Yellowdog Updater, Modified (YUM) or Dandified YUM (DNF)
Release Cycle Fixed
Latest Version RHEL 9
Founded 2002

While Red Hat Linux was primarily intended for the desktop market, RHEL is focused on the enterprise server market. One of the key differences between the two is that Red Hat Linux was a free, community-driven distribution, while RHEL is a commercial product with a paid subscription model. 

RHEL is also designed with more emphasis on stability, security, and support, which makes it ideal for use in mission-critical systems. Unlike Red Hat Linux, which had a more rapid release cycle, RHEL has major updates every three to four years. Additionally, RHEL comes with long-term support, which means that customers can receive security and maintenance updates for up to ten years from the release date.

Some key features of RHEL:

  • Long-term support: Whereas Red Hat Linux provided a pay-as-you-go support model, RHEL provides long-term support for each major version, with a typical lifecycle of up to 10 years! This means that customers can rely on RHEL to receive security updates, bug fixes, and maintenance for an extended period of time.
  • Enterprise Customers: Designed specifically for enterprise customers and includes certifications for specific architectures, extended support, and tools for managing large-scale deployments. In contrast, the original Red Hat Linux distribution was geared more towards desktop users and Linux enthusiasts.
  • Security and Compliance: Security features like managing user authentication, access control, and encryption are huge upgrades from the original Red Hat Linux. Industry-specific compliance standards such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) go to show the level of extent that RHEL is willing to go to make sure their customers feel secure


The Fedora Project

Architecture 32-bit & 64-bit (Fedora 33 & on: Only 64-bit)
Package Manager Dandified YUM (DNF)
Release Cycle Rolling
Latest Version Fedora 38
Founded 2003

After Red Hat Linux was discontinued, Red Hat shifted its focus to the enterprise market and created Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) as its flagship product. However, Red Hat Linux still wanted to keep an open source & community driven project - thus the Fedora Project was born! 

Fedora serves as a testbed for technologies that could eventually be included in RHEL. While Fedora is based on the same codebase as RHEL and shares many similarities, it is not a direct replacement for the original Red Hat Linux, which was a separate product with its own distinct features and user base.

Some key differentiators between Red Hat Linux & Fedora:

  • Community-Driven: Red Hat Linux was a commercial product, while Fedora is a community-driven project.
  • Release Cycle: Red Hat Linux had a fixed release cycle, with new versions being released every year or two, while Fedora has a faster release cycle, with new versions being released periodically every six months.
  • Purpose: Red Hat Linux was primarily designed for enterprise use, with a focus on stability and long-term support, while Fedora is designed to be more cutting-edge and up-to-date, with the latest software packages and features.


The Legacy of Red Hat on the Linux World

RHEL is one of the most widely used and respected Linux distributions in the enterprise space, and its success has had a ripple effect throughout the entire Linux ecosystem. In particular, the source code of Red Hat Linux has had a significant influence on the development of many Linux distributions over the years.

Some familiar distros you may have heard of that have been influenced by Red Hat:

  • CentOS: CentOS is essentially a free, open-source version of RHEL, with the Red Hat trademarks removed. CentOS is popular among users who want a stable, reliable operating system without the cost or licensing requirements of RHEL.
  • Oracle Linux: Designed to be fully compatible with RHEL, with the addition of some proprietary software and features from Oracle.
  • Scientific Linux: Maintained by the scientific community and is designed to be used in research environments, with a focus on stability and compatibility.
  • ClearOS: A simple, easy-to-use operating system for small businesses and home users, with a focus on security and network management.
  • OpenSUSE: Not directly based on Red Hat Linux, but it does use the RPM package management system. Often used as a desktop operating system or as a server platform for web hosting or other applications.
  • Amazon Linux: Optimized for cloud computing, specifically in the Amazon ecosystem. Includes many of the same features and tools as RHEL, but with some additional software and optimizations specific to AWS. Packagecloud recently released native support for Amazon Linux.


RHEL Today

Keep in mind that RHEL does not have “variants” like traditional linux distros. However, here are seven of the most popular editions that are available today:

  • RHEL Servers: This is the main edition designed for server environments. It includes a wide range of tools for managing and deploying applications, hardware, and infrastructure.
  • RHEL Workstation: Used for desktop and laptop computers. It includes a variety of productivity & development tools for building applications.
  • RHEL Developer Suite: A collection of tools and resources specifically for developers who are building applications on RHEL. It includes frameworks and libraries with premium access to Red Hat's developer support team.
  • RHEL High Availability: Popular with cluster & load-balanced system environment. Includes features for managing failover and redundancy, as well as for ensuring high levels of uptime.
  • RHEL Resilient Storage: Tools for managing storage resources & data integrity  make it popular for anyone working in local & networked storage environments.
  • RHEL for SAP Solutions: Great for anyone working within the SAP ecosystem. Convenient tools for managing SAP deployments make it a popular choice.
  • RHEL for ARM: Designed to run on ARM-based processors, which are commonly used in embedded devices and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.


How Packagecloud Can Help

Whether you are looking for an easier way to manage your RPM repo, or you are simply part of the Fedora community, is a one-stop cloud-based service to store and distribute different software packages in a reliable and scalable way while securing  your software supply chain without owning any infrastructure. Give us a try for 2 weeks for free & see for yourself!


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