Unlocking Opterons Potential

SuSE delivers ample scalability.Review: suse delivers ample scalability.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron processor provides a new option for accessing the benefits of 64-bit computing, but companies will have to pair Opteron-based systems with a 64-bit operating system to experience all the new chip has to offer. eWEEK Labs tested the first such enterprise-class operating system: SuSE Inc.s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 for AMD64.

With support for as many as 64 processors and 512GB of physical memory, this version of SuSE (www.suse.com) delivers significant scalability gains and provides companies with a platform on which they can run 64-bit-optimized applications as they become available. The price is also right: The operating system began shipping last week for $448 per CPU.

Several operating system vendors are hot on SuSEs trail: SuSE rival Red Hat Inc. is expected to add support for the 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 the Opteron in the middle of this year. MandrakeSoft Inc.s 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 IA-64, PowerPC 64, s390x and SPARC64 64-bit platforms, in addition to the 32-bit hardware for which this operating system 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 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 (see screen). Device drivers and kernel modules must be compiled for 64 bits to work with the 64-bit kernel.

To avoid conflicts between 32- and 64-bit libraries and link objects, SuSE stores them in separate directories. 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.

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.