Novell's first service pack for SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 delivers a host of significant new virtualization and high availability features and support options.
First, SP1 offers the latest Xen hypervisor, Xen 4.0, which offers faster I/O performance. Perhaps more significantly, SP1 supports KVM, the other open source hypervisor, which is incorporated as part of the distribution's use of the updated Linux 2.6.32 kernel.
Offering commercial support for Xen and KVM is a significant step forward for Novell. Its chief rival, Red Hat, currently supports Xen but has selected KVM as its strategic hypervisor over the long term.
"From a virtualization perspective, we delivered a version of SLES last year that included a tech preview of KVM and now we have full support for KVM as one of two open source hypervisors and we innovate in both areas," said Michael Applebaum, senior solution marketing manager for Novell.
Support for single root I/O virtualization, another SP1 improvement, allows virtualization aware servers to bypass the hypervisor and communicate directly with network and storge devices, which improves virtualization performance, said Kerry Kim, product marketing manager for SUSE Linux Enterprise at Novell.
SP1 also offers improved support for Linux integration components in Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor, dubbed by Novell as an industry first. Another option with SP1 is "the SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack, a set of drivers which improves the performance of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 virtual guests," Novell said.
SP1 also delivers advanced clustering support including "support for metro area clusters, simple node recovery with ReaR, the leading open source disaster recovery framework, and new administrative tools including a cluster simulator and web-based GUI," Novell announced in a statement.
SLES 11, which shipped in March of 2009, offered support for local-area clustering only.
On the desktop side, SP1 offers enhanced audio and Bluetooth support and the latest updates of Firefox, OpenOffice and Evolution, including a MAPI improvement to facilitate better integration with Microsoft Exchange.
Novell also decided to offer more flexible support options, notably, the ability to run older Linux versions during the product's lifecycle and still get updates and patches. For those that upgrade to service packs as they are delivered, Novell's Long Term Service Pack Support will continue to provide full technical support and fixes backported to earlier releases.
The components of Novell Suse Linux Enterprise 11 Service Pack 1 -- the server, desktop, High Availability Extension for clustering, a point-of-ervice retail offering and the Windows driver pack -- are expected to be available on June 2.