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The distribution is one of the most crucial components of the Engine Yard stack. Much has changed since the company was founded, and the distribution needed to change with it. On behalf of the Distribution Team, including Gordon Malm, Kirk Haines and myself, I am pleased to announce the Early Availability of the new Engine Yard distribution. Even with the changes made, the team has worked hard to closely match the underlying system with what users have familiarized themselves with. With this in mind I'd like to take the time to point out the main changes which we feel are beneficial to you, our customer.

Enhanced Ruby Support

While supporting a number of new languages recently, including PHP and NodeJS, Engine Yard has a strong Ruby presence. Since Ruby was first released, there have been many new implementations that have come out, and with it the need to better support existing and future implementations. The new distribution's Ruby architecture improves the support of these implementations through a more modular backend. To make for an even more customized experience for users, RVM is now available on all new distribution installations. A big thanks to Michal Papis, the RVM lead, who has been instrumental in helping make this happen. This has been a request from many customers, and we're excited to be able to deliver on it.

More User Focus

Work on the new distribution allowed for the team to start with a cleaner slate, which meant that more focused user centered customizations could be made. Packages such as Nginx and PHP were re-evaluated to ensure that they were customized to fit the needs of a majority of our customers. Supported versions were re-evaluated as well for major packages, allowing our support team the ability to support the new distribution more efficiently. Finally, the Linux kernel has been updated to the 3.4 series and the configuration options have been re-evaluated. One of the most prominent changes being the move to EXT4 as the default filesystem.

Hardened Toolchain

There has been substantial process in the area of compiler based security over the years. The new distribution utilizes a hardened toolchain to provide the benefits of this effort. Such protections include:

  • Stack Smashing Protection (SSP) for mitigation against stack overflows
  • Position Independent Executables (PIEs) for mitigation against attacks requiring executable code be located at a specific address
  • FORTIFY_SOURCE for mitigation against attacks resulting from the overflow of fixed length buffers and some format-string attacks
  • RELRO for mitigation of attacks against various sections in an ELF binary
  • BIND_NOW for mitigation of attacks that rely on loading shared objects at the time of function execution

These changes help to provide additional security for the system, reducing the possible attack vectors that could be utilized by an exploit.

Improved Testing

Testing an operating system is an extremely difficult process, and requires constant adaptation. Work on the new distribution has led to an increase in the creation of runtime tests for ensuring the reliability of the system. Core packages that had test suites were evaluated to ensure as much code level reliability as possible. I would in particular like to thank the Engine Yard QA team, who has played an instrumental role in helping us with this goal. However, testing is once again a constant effort and we look forward to helping improve the quality of the testing process.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the many improvements that have been made to the new distribution to better help serve our customers. Our work does not end here however, and we look forward to improving our processes even further to better serve your needs. On behalf of the distribution team we thank you for being Engine Yard customers, and look forward to working with you now and in the future. To get started with early access for the new distribution, please refer to the Use Engine Yard Gentoo 12.11 Early Access documentation on the Engine Yard website.


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