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Red Hat now supports RHEL 5 and 6 for a decade

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Companies that like Red Hat Enterprise Linux but hate changing Linux versions because of the hardware and software qualification process just got an excuse to be lazy for the next decade.

Red Hat has announced that it will extend the production life of its latest RHEL 6 releases and the prior RHEL 5 releases by an extra three years, with a full decade of support – up from seven years.

"Enterprise customers require flexibility when planning strategic, long-term technology deployments," Jim Totton, vice president and general manager of the platform business unit at Red Hat said in a statement announcing the change. "Many of our customers have come to realize that standardizing on Red Hat Enterprise Linux improves efficiency and helps lower costs. With a 10-year life cycle, customers now have additional choices when planning their Red Hat Enterprise Linux deployment and overall IT strategy. We are pleased that customers are looking far into the future with Red Hat.”

The 10-year production life of RHEL 5 and RHEL 6 runs from the general availability of a each major release of the Linux operating system stack from Shadowman.

With RHEL 3 and 4, Red Hat offered four years of what it calls production phase 1support, under which it provides full support, including backporting important new Linux features to prior kernels to maintain application compatibility as well as support for new hardware, software enhancements in the stack, updated installation images, and security and bug fixes. Production phase 2 support does limited new hardware support but software in the stack is not updated and neither are installation images. Production phase 3 lasts about two years, and now minor releases are not tweaked (just the major ones) and new hardware is only enabled through virtualization hypervisors. (Meaning if you want new hardware support, you have to run your RHEL in virtual mode in a KVM or Xen partition.) After these seven years were up on RHEL 3 and 4, you had the option to pay for extended life support (which does not have human tech support) and extended update support (which does).

With today's update to the RHEL5 and 6 lifecycle, Shadowman is now stretching the initial, full-on support level for RHEL to five-and-a-half years, offering phase two for the same one year, and tacking on another six months onto production support phase three, for a total of a decade of production support. The extended support options are still maxed out at three years.

The production lifecycle for RHEL was at parity with Canonical's Ubuntu Server Long Term Support (LTS) releases, which have five years of coverage. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 was launched in March 2009 with a Service Pack 1 update in March 2010, and it is currently supported through March 2016, which is the seven-year range that Red Hat is offering. (The SUSE Linux unit of Attachmate offers self-support through March 2019 on SLES 11 SP1.)

Red Hat is probably not as much interested in keeping parity with SUSE Linux as it is interested in keeping RHEL customers who are happy with their systems to keep paying for support instead of going to self-support. The original RHEL 5.0 came out in March 2007 and was coming up on its five-year end-of-production support, and RHEL 5.1 comes up on its fifth birthday this coming November. By extending the production level support on RHEL 5 by 18 months, Red Hat now gets that much more time to get these customers to move on up to RHEL 6 – rather than slipping from fee to free. ®

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