Suse has updated its enterprise Linux distribution, using a recent version of the Linux kernel to support the advanced management capabilities in freshly released servers from Hewlett-Packard and Dell.
Service Pack 2 for Suse Linux Enterprise 11, released Tuesday, also includes a new file system and a new, low-overhead form of virtualization called Containers.
Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) is Suse's commercially supported Linux distribution, used by more than 13,000 organizations around the world. This service pack is the first major release since Suse was reorganized as a semi-autonomous business unit, following the sale of parent company Novell to Attachmate, finalized last April.
This is also the first version of the package compiled using what the company calls forward-porting. "We are updating the kernel more frequently," said Kerry Kim, Suse director of solution marketing. In this approach, the company will use a more recent version of the kernel than they would otherwise, and take on more quality testing and updating of the libraries to prepare for its use in the enterprise.
"Because we've adopted this model, we've been able to introduce a lot more features in this service pack than you would normally see in this kind of release," Kim said.
Because the service pack includes version 3.0 of Linux, SLES can offer a number of features made possible by advancements in that version of the operating system kernel.
Most notably, the update allows SLES to be prepared for some new hardware releases. It will be able to fully take advantage of the automated provisioning capabilities of Hewlett-Packard's new Gen8 servers, as well as the advanced management capabilities of Dell's just-released PowerEdge 12G servers. Both servers use management features that Intel packed into its Xeon E5 processors.
Thanks to Linux 3.0, this package includes the next-generation Btrfs file system, and is the first commercial Linux package to offer this file system as an option, the company claimed. Btrfs takes snapshots of all the content in the file system at various points in time, which allow administrators to roll back to an earlier state should some unwanted changes be made. The company also includes Snapper, a tool that allows administrators to use the snapshot functionality of Btrfs. Such tools "will give administrators the means to better audit and track configuration changes," Kim said.
SLES also includes, for the first time, a new virtualization technology called Containers, which mimics the Containers technology in Oracle Solaris. Containers provides a way to give each user what appears to be a complete virtual machine, while, in fact, each user just shares a single kernel. This approach provides a "high-efficient, low-overhead virtualization," Kim said.
"We've had a fair share of users migrate over from Solaris, and many have asked for OS virtualization like Containers or Zones," Kim said. Linux 3.0 advances in provisioning single control hosts made the use of Containers possible.
Linux 3.0 also brings scheduler and memory management optimization, CPU load balancing and improved networking performance. It provides support for more than 500 of the latest CPUs, chipsets, storage and networking devices. Suse also revised its ZYpp software package management subsystem, allowing users to more easily manage multiple kernels residing on the same deployment.
This is also the first version of SLES that will allow servers to be set up in clusters across a WAN (wide area network). Previous versions could only be used to form a cluster of servers that all resided in the same data center. This feature will pave the way for disaster recovery operations, in which an organization can spread its operations across data centers in two geographic regions, in case disaster should strike one data center.
SLES comes in a number of editions: one for servers, one for high-availability servers, an edition for IBM System z mainframe servers, a desktop edition and a version tweaked for heavy virtualization usage.
The software is offered free, and SUSE offers a variety of subscription support plans, starting at US$349 per server per year.