With the launch of , enterprises have a new option for accessing the benefits of 64-bit computing—one thats also capable of running 32-bit x86 code natively. However, companies will have to pair Opteron-based systems with a 64-bit operating system to experience all that the new chip has to offer.
eWEEK Labs tested the first such enterprise-class OS: SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 for AMD64, which began shipping Tuesday at a cost of $448 per CPU. With support for as many as 64 processors and 512GB of physical memory, SuSE delivers significant scalability gains and provides companies with a platform on which they can run 64-bit optimized applications as they become available. (Some of the first important enterprise applications out of the chute will include versions of IBMs DB2 Universal Database and Oracle Corp.s Oracle9i.)
Several OS vendors are hot on SuSEs trail: SuSE rival Red Hat Inc. is expected to add support for Opteron this fall, in Version 3 of its Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Microsoft Corp. has announced that it will release a beta version of Windows Server 2003 for Opteron in the middle of this year. Mandrake Linux supports the Opteron in Version 9 of its general-purpose Linux distribution, and Opteron support is expected in a release this month of Mandrake Linux Corporate Server 2.1.
The version of SuSE Linux Enterprise Edition we tested ran a version of the 2.4.19 Linux kernel compiled for the Opteron. SuSE also supports the ia64, ppc64, s390x and sparc64 64-bit platforms, in addition to the 32-bit hardware for which this OS is available. As a result, companies that run SuSE will be able to apply the same set of system administration skills across a mix of hardware.
Almost all of the software that shipped with the version of SuSE we tested had been compiled for AMD64. Also included were a number of 32-bit libraries, which enabled us to run 32-bit applications on the system. Device drivers and kernel modules must be compiled for 64-bit to work with the 64-bit kernel. We could also compile 32-bit applications on the system by passing an argument to gcc, which compiles for 64-bit by default.
To avoid conflicts between 32- and 64-bit libraries and link objects, SuSE stores them in separate directories. For example, a 32-bit library typically stored in /lib would have its 64-bit version stored in /lib64. In cases where 32- and 64-bit versions of the same software package are available, administrators must choose between the two, as the versions will conflict with each other.
SuSE Linux Enterprise Edition includes Version 3.1 of the KDE desktop environment and Version 2.2 of the GNOME desktop, along with SuSEs stable of very good YaST2-based system configuration utilities.
For more information, go to www.suse.com.
Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at [email protected].
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