Actually thinking of RHEL I see a use case for virtualized servers where many OS instances share /usr but have private /var, /etc and /opt. That could provide great gains in memory and disk dedup for "free"
Virtualized machines is one of the use cases they mention specifically. The idea is that with all of the binaries and libraries pushed into /usr, / will shrink to something quite small and it will be easy to give every server its own copy without wasting much space. Cleaning up /etc would make management easier and save space for that kind of virtualization.
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