On the strength of its broad platform support, approachable configuration tools, estimable set of vendor certifications and solid support options, Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server has earned a reputation as a safe choice for Linux at enterprise sites.
SLES 10, which Novell began shipping this summer, continues in this vein. It also adds to the mix Xen virtualization capabilities, which, while clearly still on the road to maturity, fit in well with the distribution and add a new deployment and management arrow to the SLES administrator's quiver.
Current SLES shops should take the new release for a spin and consider whether an upgrade makes sense. Administrators should place particular focus on compatibility between their current, SLES 9-hosted applications and SLES 10s Xen virtualization and lockdown technologies.
SLES 10 also is well worth considering at sites in search of a well-supported and popular Linux distribution on which to build their infrastructure.
SLES 10 supports x86 platforms, as well as Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon 64 and Opteron; Intel's EM64T (Extended Memory 64 Technology) and Itanium II; and IBM's PowerPC and zSeries. eWEEK Labs tested the 32-bit version of SLES on a single-processor Athlon 64 system with 1GB of RAM; we tested the 64-bit version of the operating system on a dual-processor Opteron system.
For X86, AMD64, EM64T, Itanium II and IBM Power PC platforms, a one-year SLES 10 subscription costs $349 for a basic support plan, $799 for a standard support plan and $1,499 for a priority support plan. Three-year versions of each plan cost $873, $1,998 and $3,748, respectively. For more on SLES 10 pricing, see www.novell.com/products/server/howtobuy.html.
In general, SLES 10's pricing is comparable to that of Red Hats Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
The biggest new addition on the SLES software-hosting front is Xen, the open-source virtualization technology behind which Novell, Red Hat and other prominent systems vendors have thrown their weight.
During tests, eWEEK Labs found that Novell has tightened up the Xen configuration module thats built into SLES suite of configuration tools, Yast. We installed versions of SUSE in our Xen virtual machines and found that the installations ran smoothly when we prepared for them by first using SLES installation server feature to create install sources. We did this for the x86-64 and x86 versions of SLES, as well as for an alpha release of OpenSUSE 10.2.
The SLES installation server setup tool gave us the option of hosting our install source via NFS, HTTP or FTP. After specifying a folder in which to place the install source-and providing pointers to the distribution's installation ISO images-we were up and running and ready to reel off new installs on physical hardware, as well as on Xen and VMware systems.
SLES 10's Yast Xen module did a good job of guiding us through the installations we created, although it didn't offer much help after the installations were complete. The tool allowed us to stop, start and delete our Xen VMs, as well as launch a terminal window through which we could interact with the VMs. We'd like to see Novell add resource monitoring and allocation features to the tool, as well as support for cloning VMs and migrating them from physical hosts.
We hit one snag while completing setup for a Xen VM wed installed as a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) server: The terminal window through which we were interacting with our VM stopped registering the backspace key, and we ended up restarting the VM to complete its configuration