SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 SP3 tested

The Chameleon's New Clothes

Software Updates

Of course, SLE 11 SP3 also comes with a large number of software updates. MySQL 5.5 is worthy of note; however, its database format is incompatible with that of MySQL 5.0. That said, SUSE provides a number of scripts [7] that allow admins to convert their MySQL 5.0 databases. Postfix also made a fairly large version jump from version 2.9.4 to 2.5.13. The new version behaves differently at various points [8]. As an alternative to the standard GCC compiler, SP3 also comes with GCC 4.7.2. This version provides extensive support of the standards ISO C 11 and ISO C++ 11. Furthermore, the service pack includes the OpenJDK 7 version [9] of the Java Runtime Environment and development kits, because OpenJDK 6 was abandoned by its developers.

UEFI Secure Boot

Other enhancements include support for UEFI secure boot at the same level as the current openSUSE version. Thus, SLE 11 SP3 now also launches on Windows 8 systems, which have secure boot enabled by default. The UEFI firmware classifies the SLE SP3 installation media for x86-64 systems as trustworthy, because SUSE provides them with a Microsoft-signed version of the Shim bootloader. However, the secure boot implementation of SLE (like others) entails a number of restrictions (e.g., software suspend and hibernation no longer work if secure boot is enabled). Additionally, users can only use a graphics driver with support for KMS (kernel-based mode setting) if secure boot is enabled.

The secure boot implementations in Ubuntu and Ubuntu Server do not involve these restrictions. On the other hand, they do not have a secure boot chain comprising a bootloader, kernel, and kernel modules; they only serve to facilitate installation on Windows 8 systems. SUSE has, however, developed its own machine owner key (MOK) process that lets users replace the SUSE signature used in an as-delivered state with their own key. Admins can thus load a self-compiled and unsigned kernel and kernel modules even though secure boot is enabled.


SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 SP3 is an important update, although it introduces only modest adjustments in line with the product philosophy. The new kernel backports in particular provide better hardware support and more virtualization features. Anyone using SUSE Linux Enterprise for the first time will need SP3, if only for UEFI support, and existing customers install SP3 anyway. (See "Trying Out SLE SP3" for more information.)

Trying Out SLE SP3

As usual with SUSE, SP3 [10] is a complete distribution. Two DVD ISOs give new customers the latest version [11] – including all the patches and updates that SUSE has published since the inception of SLE 11 in 2009. After registration, interested admins can download a free 60-day trial [12] version without a support contract, and existing customers can make a regular upgrade to SP3 via Zypper [13]. Support for SLE 11 SP2 ends in January 2014 – except for customers with Long Term Service Pack Support.

The responsibility for getting everything to work smoothly lies with the manufacturer, who covers this risk with the subscription fees. However, if you are used to state-of-the-art distributions in your daily work, some of the details may seem disconcerting from today's perspective, such as the lack of ext4 support, the preference for AppArmor instead of SELinux as the Mandatory Access Control Technology, and Upstart as the init system (instead of the usual systemd). Additionally, the default Gnome 2 desktop is not exactly fresh. This is probably the price you have to pay for a maximum 10 years of support.

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