Suse Linux Enterprise revamp pushes virtualisation

Novell's service pack update to SLE 11 improves integration with Hyper-V, adds KVM support and offers the latest Xen hypervisor, among other changes
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Novell has introduced a significant update for its Suse Linux Enteprise 11 software, Service Pack 1, which includes the integration of components for Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor.

The operating system update, released on Wednesday, also provides new virtualisation features, clustering capabilities and more flexible technical support options. The service pack made its debut at Novell's BrainShare EMEA event in Amsterdam, where the company distributed preview DVDs of the update.

The Service Pack 1 (SP1) revamp applies to Novell's Suse Enterprise range, from its flagship desktop and server products to versions tailored for clustering or retail point-of-sale devices. The update is expected to be generally available on 2 June.

Linux Integration Components are a Microsoft technology designed to improve support for virtual devices such as network controllers and storage controllers in Hyper-V. Novell said the integration of this technology in SP1 will make Suse the first Linux distribution to include the components.

SP1 does not rely only Microsoft's hypervisor; the release also includes an updated Xen 4.0 hypervisor with better virtual input/output performance and support for the open-source hypervisor KVM.

In contrast, business Linux competitor Red Hat is building its virtualisation strategy around KVM. It dropped Xen support in the latest test version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, which was released last month.

Virtualisation has been a growing focus for Linux vendors, as they look to take advantage of the rapid growth of cloud computing. In April, for instance, Red Hat launched a cloud package allowing Red Hat Enterprise Linux premium support customers to move their instances between on-premises and cloud infrastructures without changes to their support plan.

As for Novell, it launched a group of technologies last summer, called the Suse Appliance Program, that allow developers to create and deploy software appliances that can run in any virtual environment. The program included a version of Suse Linux Enterprise Server tailored to Amazon's EC2 cloud service.

Beyond virtualisation, the new Suse Linux Enterprise 11 SP1 promises to provide support for metro area clusters, support for the relaxed and recover (ReaR) node recovery technology and an improved disaster recovery framework. It also provides new administrative tools, such as a cluster simulator and a web-based user interface.

Novell said SP1 will make Suse the first commercial operating system to use the Linux 2.6.32 kernel. This kernel is designed to get the best out of the reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS) features in Intel's Xeon 7500 and 5600-series processors.

On the desktop, SP1 improves audio and Bluetooth support, and updates software such as Firefox, OpenOffice.org and Evolution to their latest releases. The version of the Evolution email client included with SP1 includes MAPI improvements for better Exchange interoperability, Novell said.

In addition, the updated OS ushers in a new support scheme from Novell, which the company says will let customers stay on older package releases and so allow businesses to decide when and how to upgrade.

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