SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 SP3 tested

The Chameleon's New Clothes


SP3 supports KVM virtualization with up to 2TB of RAM and 160 CPU cores per guest, thus catching up with RHEL 6.4. Moreover, it can use the Nested Paging function supported by the latest Intel processors to start a VM from within a VM. However, the function still has a status of Technology Preview and is not officially supported in any way by SUSE. Incidentally, the Xen kernel code was updated to version 4.2. In the context of other updates, SUSE also includes virt-manager version 0.9.4 and version 1.2.1 of the virt-utils.

Red Hat's virt-manager can be launched directly in SLE as a YaST module (Figure 4). In the Server Base Scenario dialog, the SLE installer asks whether you want to set up SLE as a virtualization host (hypervisor) for Xen or KVM as a normal system on physical hardware or as a Xen/KVM guest system on paravirtualized hardware. Full virtualization without paravirtualized or virtio drivers (KVM), however, is identical to installation on physical hardware. The full virtualization option is not available if you run the setup program on a virtual machine, or if the installer has found no CPU virtualization features (Figure 5).

Figure 4: Developed by Red Hat, virt-manager is also on board in SLE and can even be launched from within YaST.
Figure 5: SLE can be used as a hypervisor, an ordinary host on physical hardware, and a guest on paravirtualized hardware.

By the way, SUSE stopped providing the Xen hypervisor in the 32-bit SLE variant in SP2; 32-bit SLE can thus only be used as a Xen guest system. Xen paravirtualized drivers are available after installing the xen-kmp-default or xen-kmp-pae packages. In the scope of the SLE SP3 release, the SUSE developers have also updated their separately downloadable driver pack for SLE guest systems [2] to version 2.1. This includes the virtio drivers (disk, network, and memory/ballooning) for all Microsoft operating systems from XP on – in the event that one of the Microsoft operating systems is used as a guest system on a KVM-powered SLE 11 hypervisor.

Support for Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 [3] is new. For enhanced Hyper-V support for installing SLE as a guest under Microsoft's hypervisor, you need to install version 5.0.7 of the hyper-v package. Using a ballooning driver, Windows automatically adjusts the memory size available to an SLE guest. Beyond this, a framebuffer graphics driver supports resolutions up to 1920x1080 pixels running on Windows Server 2012/Hyper-V. Also, the Windows host and guest SLE automatically negotiate the best communication protocol for efficient operation. KVM support in the SLE version for IBM's System z (s390x) and the desktop variant, SLED, are still classified as Technical Preview .

New Drivers

SLE SP3 supports a number of new hardware components, including the Xeon E5 processor family, Intel Core CPUs, and fourth-generation AMD Opteron series 4000 and 6000 processors. The same goes for Intel's second generation Atom MicroServer and numerous newer network cards. Also new is support for the Transparent Inter-Process Communication Protocol (TIPC) and Micron P320 PCIe SSDs. SUSE also has updated the kernel code for generating an iSCSI or FCoE-addressable iSCSI target to the version in the Linux 3.4 kernel.

SLE traditionally includes graphical tools for configuring client access to an iSCSI device or an iSCSI server. The tools go by the names of iSCSI Initiator and iSCSI Target . The initiator is used to set the initiator IQN  in  the local /etc/iscsi/initiatorname.icsi configuration file of the similarly named service; iSCSI Target initializes the target configuration (Figure 6).

Figure 6: SLE includes graphical YaST modules for configuring the SLE host and the iSCSI clients.

SUSE also has prepared its SLE kernel for the use of Intel AMT remote maintenance technology [4] (Active Management Technology). If you want to use AMT you need to install the associated Intel tools [5].


SUSE Enterprise Linux continues to use ext3 as the default filesystem. SUSE also supports the use of ReiserFS 3.6, XFS, and Btrfs, but not ext4. SLE 11 can by default only read ext4 filesystems. The admin must manually upgrade to and enable write support [6], if needed. In terms of Btrfs support, the SUSE developers have adapted the filesystem code so that Btrfs also supports quotas for subvolumes on SLE 11. In combination with the High Availability Extension, SP3 also supports OCFS2. The Snapper Snapshot tool first introduced with SP2 now works faster. It now also works with the LVM thin provisioning function.

Officially, the Device Mapper has only supported thin provisioning since kernel version 3.2. It provides a number of functions that were an integral part of LVM in previous kernel versions. These include the ability to generate and manage block-oriented devices, snapshots, and various RAID functions that can be used by other block-oriented devices (like hard disks). Thin provisioning is generally understood as a method of providing storage in virtualized environments (storage virtualization). The counterpart is hardware provisioning, in which the administrator performs the partitioning and formatting of disks manually and unchangeably. Another new feature in SLE 11 SP3 is that users can manage snapshots without root privileges. This task is even possible using a YaST module after installing the yast2-snapper package.

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