If your team uses Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 or 6, you likely know that RHEL 5.11 Extended Life Cycle Support will be discontinued on November 30, 2020 and that release 6 will be entering its ELS phase on the same day.

RHEL 5.11 Extended Life Cycle Support was made available with its retirement on March 31, 2017, so if you’re still running on it more than 3 years later, you may feel that this isn’t a critical issue. Maybe you’re planning an upgrade soon. Or you’re on the fence about upgrading to a newer version of RHEL. Whether you plan to move forward or not, it’s important to understand what the issues are.

What does the end of RHEL 5.11 Extended Life Cycle Support mean?

According to Red Hat’s Support Policy, the end of RHEL 5.11 Extended Life Cycle Support means no more errata advisories, no software enhancements or hardware enablement, and no patches for bugs. An exception exists for Critical and Important RHBAs as well as Urgent Priority RHSAs, but these will be made available sparingly and only at Red Hat’s discretion. Technical support is extremely limited and is offered for existing installations only.

You can purchase an Extended Life Support Add-On to retain access to the most critical errata advisories as well as Red Hat’s Customer Portal. However, the fees associated with Add-Ons are significant, and Red Hat outlines in their support policy that they may discontinue their Extended Support for any version of RHEL at any time. You could pay for a year’s worth of Extended Support only to have it pulled partway through the year. While access to Red Hat’s Customer Portal might seem enticing, Linux-based software is open source, so it’s likely that any troubleshooting info you find in the Customer Portal might also exist on an open forum elsewhere.

What’s at stake with the end of RHEL 5.11 Extended Life Cycle Support?

Linux-based operating systems are reputed to be more secure than their Windows Server-based counterparts. Statistics show that RHEL 5 suffered 76 documented breaches throughout its lifespan, while Windows Server 2003 sustained 436 breaches in roughly the same period.

RHEL might be more secure but it’s not infallible. RHEL 5 came under scrutiny in 2008 when hackers found a way to use OpenSSH to tamper with the code on Red Hat’s systems. Ten years later, an integer overflow flaw was discovered in all versions of RHEL, which allowed hackers to grant themselves escalated privileges and gain root access. Linux has continued to grow in popularity, potentially making it a more attractive candidate for future breaches. In 2018 Red Hat reported a record-high 823 discovered vulnerabilities, compared to 180 in the year prior.

A data breach can be costly to your organization. According to a recent KPMG report, 90% of consumers are wary of doing business with organizations that have suffered data breaches, and 84% would strongly consider taking their business elsewhere if a breach were to happen. An insurance provider might cover the damage done to your systems in a breach, but it can’t fix the damage done to your organization’s brand and reputation.

Finally, clinging to an old, unsupported version of RHEL means that your organization can’t move forward with enhancements to existing applications. It makes it difficult or impossible to leverage new, cloud-enabled features and tools such as containerization and microservices.

How to Move Forward with RHEL 5.11

Your team could plan for an upgrade of RHEL 5.11 to 7 or 8. However, Red Hat doesn’t support an upgrade from a minor to a major release. Straying from an approved upgrade path is risky. If you’re contemplating a system wipe/re-install, you’ve got your work cut out for you, starting with a snapshot backup in case things don’t go as planned.

If you’re dealing with monolithic legacy apps where state and configuration data is important, deploying these apps in a new environment can be especially challenging. Problems with package management and versioning are common. Also, if application dependencies are deprecated on the new OS, you may need to change the source code.

Legacy apps that your business depends upon need to move to newer, safer versions of RHEL. You can’t take security for granted, even with a stable Linux-based product, and you need to consider your organization’s performance and competitiveness. Your infrastructure and business shouldn’t be stuck in the past. Where do you start looking for the expertise required to pull off an OS upgrade?

Upgrading with VirtaMove

VirtaMove provides a RHEL upgrade solution that’s tailored to your needs. You don’t have to risk an unsupported upgrade path or suffer through a system wipe and re install. Check out a recorded webinar where we demonstrated an upgrade of RHEL 5.11 to 7 using VirtaMove. Our staff are experts in containerization methods for app migration and skilled in using DevOps tools like Kubernetes to help deploy your apps in newer, safer environments. Plus, our Migration Intelligence Suite allows you to discover and monitor applications running anywhere on your server network. That’s always a good place to start.

If you’ve decided that now is the time to move and secure legacy RHEL workloads to safe, modern servers, contact us today at sales@virtamove.com to learn more and start your RHEL modernization and migration journey